Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday at the Table: Fajitas

I meant to write this up on for Tuesday at the Table, but hey, it's been a really busy week.  Head over there to see what others have been cooking up!

Last night I made fajitas for the family, and thought I'd share them with you (at least virtually).  Our favorite meat is Flank Steak, marinated with Penzey's fajita seasoning (I LOVE Penzeys' Spices).  I marinate it whole, and then either my husband or I grill it on a hot grill, then slice it thin (against the grain).  Yum!  Sorry no picture :(.

I also slice up peppers and onions and throw them in our cast iron skillet with more fajita seasoning and a little oil and cook until soft.

My parents are from Texas originally, and grew up eating good Mexican food.  As long as I can remember, my mom has always made tortillas from scratch.  I suspect it was because back in the 70's and 80's, when I was growing up, you probably couldn't find tortillas in grocery stores in Louisiana.  She'd use Masa Harina for the corn tortillas and I still use a simple recipe for flour tortillas.  3 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, then add 1/3 cup oil and 1 cup warm water, kneed until smooth.  I grew up rolling them out with a rolling pin, but discovered an electric press that we have been using for many years now that presses them out and cooks them at the same time!!  I LOVE it!!  Another favorite meal is bean and cheese burritos that I make with home made pinto beans and home made flour tortillas.  They are fantastic!!

My mom also made guacamole from scratch, as I still do.  My easy guacamole is just a few mashed up avocados, a few tablespoons of lemon juice (I like it very lemony), and a few tablespoons of tomato salsa... quick and easy!
One thing I've noticed from these Tuesday at the Table posts, is that our kitchen has very little natural light... just one small North-facing window.  It's hard to get good pictures.  One other complication is that I can get really crabby when I'm hungry, and by supper time, I'm focused only one thing, eating.  I forget to take pictures.  But it's still fun!

Finally, I used some of my preserved lemons this week for the first time!!  I just simply chopped some up and added them to rice that I was making to go with some chicken shish kabobs (again, no finally pictures LOL).  Here's the before picture.  Everyone liked the rice a lot!  One thing we weren't expecting is the slightly bitter aftertaste of the preserved lemons.  After reading more about them, I think it's normal.  I like it... bitter, sour, salty, and even a little sweet all in the same wonderful condiment.  I'll be using them again for sure.  I think with the rice, being so bland we could really taste the full flavor of them.  I also think I may have used a little too much.  A little really DOES go a long way!  I wonder if cooking them again brought out the bitter.  I may just stir them in after the rice is cooked next time.  I plan to use it again in dishes that have more complexity.

Have you ever tried preserved lemons in anything?  I'd love to hear about your experience with them!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Love at First Stitch, "Oh Snap" Tutorial, and Beach Postcards

I wasn't going to post today, but I just got so excited when I finished this postcard that I had to share!!

The theme for this swap is "Reproduction Fabric Aprons", and I knew as soon as I saw the theme exactly what I wanted to try out.  I saw this pattern, by "Charise Creates" at the "Sew Out Loud Quilt Along", and wanted to adapt it to an apron postcard.  The only problem is that I had never tried out freezer paper paper piecing before. 

I shrank the pattern down, made a few modifications, and started muddling through it.  My smile got bigger and bigger with each step, and I am thrilled with how it turned out.  It's love at first stitch!!  My only problem now is that I don't want to give it away :-).  I'll just have to make more!!
I also got my "Where I want to be" postcards finished.  They'll go out tomorrow!!
Finally, I have some exciting news about my "Oh Snap" quilt block. 
Caroline, from Trillium Designs, a talented quilter, seamstress, and fellow Oregonian, agreed to create a PDF pattern for it so that anyone can make it!!  You can find it on her blog!!  I am super thrilled and excited that she was generous enough to make it!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

And the Winner is....

Nancy Sue!!!  She said, " I'd hate to even cut it :) I think it'd make it into great couch pillows. Our couch is rust and brown :) A wonderful textile!!! "  CONGRATS!

I got all sorts of wonderful comments about how to use the wool, which is great, because I really needed some ideas :-).

I'll be sending you an email to get your snail mail so that I can send it out to you!!

Thanks to everyone who entered!!  This was so much fun that I hope to do it again!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mountain and Beach Postcards

First of all, thank you SO MUCH to all of you who have left comments on my posts this week!  I'm so thrilled to send out the Pendleton wool to a winner!  The suggestions of things to make with the wool really should be sent to the Pendleton Company!  I've never been to their outlet in Portland, but get their Facebook feeds, and they have some great goodies and ideas there too.  They occasionally give away items too, so be sure to check them out!  On their website, the blanket weight wool that I'm giving away is 80 dollars a yard!  It's well worth it though, and it's been getting only more and more trendy and popular in recent years!  I LOVE all of the ideas of what people would do with it.  I have another big chunk that I finally decided I'm going to turn into a cover for our piano bench!  I'd love to make a nice purse too, and the Purse Palooza event at Sew Sweetness has really got me excited!!

With several swap postcards due at the end of the month, I finally sat down and started making a few postcards. 

I had such a fun time out in the woods recently, that I used a pictures in my last post as an inspiration to make up a few postcards to give to my kids' teachers.  They are such special people!

Here's the picture again:
The theme for the last round of postcards that Beth, of "Notes" put together is "Where I want to be".  I already planned out a nice beach scene, but those mountains would be equally suited.  I got these started:
The final swap (through Postcard Cottage Yahoo Groups)  is "retro aprons".  I still haven't started these! 

So what about you?  Where do you want to be?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Outdoor School

What can I say, except that I'm a really lucky gal!  I got to go out to the woods today to volunteer at my son's Outdoor School.  I remembered my camera this time, so here's a few shots of my rainy, but rewarding day.

As you head East of town, you pass through rolling hills, full of cattle, sheep and crops (mostly wheat around here).  This time of year is the rare few months that they are green!  It's my favorite season here.

As you approach the Blue Mountains, the hills get steeper, and trees start growing.

Here's the Umatilla River.

I don't normally put pictures of my kids on my blog, but I just can't resist posting this one.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday at the Table: Camping Food

I think this is a first... 3 posts in one day!!  I just have really been loving Debbie's (at A Quilter's Table blog) Tuesday at the Table Posts and link ups!

That (not-too-great-iPod) photo up there is where we spent several meals over the past week-end.  Please excuse the mess ;-).

I decided to do a post of what's become our traditional first night camping meal.  There's really not much to it, and there lies the beauty.  That first night is usually full of driving, setting up either our tents and sleeping bags or our pop-up trailer, exploring, finding fire wood, etc...  So it's become a tradition to make super-easy quesadillas.  I buy a package of 12 flour tortillas (whole wheat), a bag of grated cheese, a little package of pre-made guacamole, a small jar of salsa, and a bag of chips.  If you can make the quesadillas (cheese between 2 flour tortillas) without getting cheese on the skillet, the only clean up is a knife (used to cut them) and a few spoons. 

I'm very environmentally conscious, but when it comes to camping, we break out paper plates, cups and bowls, all of which can either be thrown away or packed out, or burned in the camp fire.  If you click on the photo, you'll notice a white and black plastic bin, as well as a stove and water/tea kettle.  That's our dish washing system, and no one likes to use it.

I've been camping my entire life.  It was the only way my family could afford to travel.  I've seen everything in camp from instant dehydrated food to gourmet, vegetarian, and meat and potatoes, cold, hot, and many other variations.  I love to cook, but hate to clean up, so my camp meals are very easy and focus on minimal clean up.  The rest of the week-end's meals consisted of pumpkin cranberry walnut bread (made at home earlier in the week), hummus and pita bread with baby carrots (all packaged from the grocery store), chili/frito/cheese pie (chili also pre-made at home and put into a big gallon zip-lock bag), and cereal and instant oatmeal.  I love the Starbucks' instant "via" coffee packs, and ever since they came out with them, I haven't made full fledged coffee in camp.  There's always hot chocolate and the "emergency" food that we bring along... a few cans of soup, lots of nuts and dried fruit, and other things.  We've never gone hungry!

I'd LOVE to hear about any other easy camping food if you have any ideas!

Here's one more picture of me over the week-end, via the iPod.  I LOVE the way it has the camera that you can "flip", so you can see what you're taking a picture of.  BRILLIANT!

Pendleton Wool Fabric Remnant Give Away!!

Today, I also decided (again, a little late) to join in on the Give Away Day Fun at Sew Mama Sew's blog.  Be sure to click the link and see the HUGE amount of chances to win free times that are either hand made, or supplies.

I was trying to think of something to give away, when it came to me, as obvious as the nose on my face.  Living in Pendleton, Oregon, why not give away some of the famous wool fabric that is made right here in town?  The local mill occasionally has some amazing deals on remnants that they sell in their gift shop.  It's also has an incredible free tour that you can take if you go there, and it sells stacks and stacks of blankets at great deals, including seconds, which have the tiniest defects in them that you or I can no possibly discern.  The quality that comes out of this place is second to none.  It's also one of the few remaining textile mills left in the United States.

I had this remnant in my stash, and decided this is a great opportunity to share a piece of Pendleton with a lucky reader.  It's 12 inches wide by 60 inches long. I'll leave the tape on it that came from the mill to prevent fraying.  I'll ship it anywhere in the United States.  Since it's woven, it has a reverse design on the back (yes, up top that's pictures of both sides).  Here's a picture of the whole cut.
Here's one last pictures of the actual mill here in town where it was made.  How cool is that?!
All you have to do to have a chance to win is to leave a comment below giving a suggestion of what you'd make with it.  I'll leave the comments open until May 25th at 5pm PST.  Please make sure I have a way to get in touch with you.  If you are a "no reply" blogger, leave an email address.  I'll try to get in touch with the winner no later than May 27th, and ship it by priority flat rate mail by June 1st.  Thanks for visiting!!

Last Minute Blogger's Quilt Fest Entry: New Orleans French Quarter Mini Quilt

Amy's Creative Side's Blogger's Quilt Festival was my first exposure to a "link up" a few years ago.  I thought I'd missed the deadline, but when I saw that there's still time to enter a quilt, I decided this morning to squeak in an entry of my New Orleans French Quarter mini-quilt.  I originally made this as a challenge quilt for Kim's Crafty Apple's "Project Quilting" architecture theme challenge.  We all made quilts based on an architectural element.

My quilt is based on the Creole Cottages and Shotgun Houses that are so much a part of New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter and older parts of town.  These houses, as well as so many others have floor to ceiling windows and doors to take advantage of cross ventilation in the days before air conditioning.  That means that there's typically another set of these windows on the opposite end of the house.  Many of these old houses have really tall ceilings.  The houses in the quarter that are more than one story often have beautiful balconies that are an iconic part of the French Quarter. 

The finished quilt is 30 by 40 inches long, and I used Kona solids for my fabric from a swap that I participated in with Annemarie at Gen X Quilters.  I used machine quilting for it, including stitch in the ditch and free motion quilting. 

Here, courtesy of my friend, Dan Martone, husband of travel guide writer, and friend, Laura Martone, is a few pictures of my inspiration:

They are doors in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  This style of houses, the "Creole Cottage" are scattered liberally throughout the French Quarter, where Dan and his wife, Laura Martone live. 

This little quilt also recently became a commission quilt for a client who saw it posted on my blog!  Here's a picture of the queen sized version, before I sent it off to its new home:
 If you're new here from the festival, welcome!!  If you haven't yet visited all of the beautiful blogger quilts at the festival, make sure you do!  There's also a nomination form that you can fill out and nominate your favorite quilts!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week-end Camping

Here's where we spent our week-end!  Let the summer camping season begin!  I swear, there's nothing better than getting my boys away from their computers and screens ;-).  I have a super-cheap $15 dumb pre-paid phone, only recently got an iPod, and still don't have a laptop, so not having cell phone service is no big deal at all to me, but now that my boys getting into the teen years, I am really LOVING these week-ends of non-connectivity!!

I did however, forget my camera this week-end, and had to sheepishly ask for someone's iPod to take a few pictures LOL!

I'm afraid I missed the Bloggers Quilt Fest, and Give Away Day, but to be honest, I think my attention has already made its seasonal switch from sewing to being in the great outdoors.  With only a few weeks left of school, I'm also trying to find low-cost/free activities for me to do with my kids this summer.  If you have any ideas, I'm all eyes and ears!  What do you suggest for free / cheap things to do with 2 teen/tween boys?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Modern Granny Quilt Top Finished!

I was able to finish up my Modern Granny Quilt Top last night, and was able to take a picture after dinner (or do you say supper? LOL).  I LOVE the longer days we're getting into.

As I've mentioned before, I made the granny squares from a charm square swap we had at our local quilt store.  There were only 40 squares total, so I added a few other fabrics from my stash to barely finish the 10 granny squares.  After deciding I wanted a bigger quilt, I dug out more stash fabric and bought the rest of the black.  The local store no longer had the original black (a Moda Grunge), but had something else pretty close... a Moda marble black I believe.

Also, as mentioned, the yellow was supposed to be at a totally different angle, but a major cutting error forced me to modify a bit.  It's not perfect, but hey, it's DONE!  I already have the fabric for the back selected (more stash fabric), and hope to get that sewn up very soon!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Modern Granny and the UFO's

Here's what regularly happens around here on my "design wall"...

Despite a big birthday in the family this week, 2 others in extended family, and Mother's Day, I have managed to get a few sewing things done around here.  I decided to make my granny squares into a "Modern Granny" quilt!  I LOVE it so far!  It's given me a whole new perspective of modern quilts, and the accurate precise scientist in me has been rebelling all the way.  The hardest part was making that first big cut into the bottom black fabric.  I was scared I'd cut it wrong, and guess what.  I did.  That yellow strip is supposed to be a totally different angle, one that I can measure and make precise.  An argument with my teenage son got in the middle of my measuring, and oopse, totally wrong angle.  But you know what, one thing I am currently embracing about the modern look is that you'd never know.  I made a huge mistake, but it's very forgiving.  Nice!!  Obviously it's still a WIP or UFO (work in progress, unfinished object), but I hope to get it finished very soon!

I also buckled myself to the sewing chair and finished quilting these 2 long-time UFO's.  They just need binding and will be DONE!  These are some of my first quilts, and I'm no longer very attached to them, which is probably why they became UFO's.  I really dislike quilting "loops", and thought that forcing myself to get a whole quilt's worth of practice doing them would help me dislike them less.  But, just like Kale, which I forced myself to eat many times, I still dislike it!  No more!  But I'll be wrapping up my quilting season with some nice finishes.  With temps in the upper 80's this week, I was reminded of why I don't quilt in the summer.  Too hot, and I just want to be outside playing!

Come over to Freshly Pieced blog and see what others are up to!  I'm also linking up to Leah Day's Vacation Link up at the Free Motion Quilting Project!!  Come join us there as well!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Home Made Pizza and My Salt Story!

It's Tuesday, so I'm joining Debbie at "A Quilter's Table" for Tuesday at the Table.  She has a great post about the salt she uses in her kitchen.  I'm no salt aficionado, but her post reminded me of a fun salt story that's deep in my past!  It goes way back to my elementary school days.  I grew up in Baton Rouge Louisiana (born in Baton Rouge General Hospital), and lived there until I was in high school (Baton Rouge High School).  I attended public school there.  One rite of passage of all Baton Rouge school kids was a field trip to Avery Island, Louisiana.  This is a special place.  It's where Tabasco hot sauce was created, and is still made, it's a rich wildlife refuge and sanctuary, and it's also the first salt rock mine in North America.  The whole area is a huge, almost pure salt dome that still produces salt.  When I was a kid, you could take tours of the salt mines, and I remember being underground, taking huge slides down to the floor, and standing in an enormous "room", bigger than any sports arena that was all salt!  AMAZING!  They've long ago stopped giving tours there, but you can still take tours of the Tabasco sauce plant, and nature preserve.

My "foodie" post is all about home made pizza. I was not at all a pizza aficionado until I met my husband, over 20 years ago.  Louisiana is a great food mecca, but is not especially known for good pizza.  My husband, though, grew up in Chicago, eating the incredible Chicago deep dish pizza.  Living in the small towns that we have, we've been constantly striving to perfect home made pizza.  I've long ago given up making deep dish pizza, but do make all of our dough from scratch.  I'm down to our last 2 jars of home grown, home made tomato pizza sauce too.  I like to saute onions and garlic (home grown when we got them) to put on the pizza, and we recently discovered healthier turkey pepperoni.  We use less cheese and at home, I can customize the pizza for the 4 different tastes quite easily!
I always make extra dough for bread sticks!
So, what about you?  What's your favorite kind of pizza?  Deep dish, New York Style?  Wood Oven?  Cheese?  Pepperoni?  Do you have any good salt stories?  I'd love to know!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Monday Garden Post

As usual, we (meaning mostly my husband, with my assistance) got a lot done in our garden and yard over the week-end.  We finished up our yard garden patch, amending the soil, hooking up irrigation (we only average 12 inches of rain here), and planting some peppers and some local Walla Walla onion starts, next to the new strawberry bed.  My husband also dug up 3 sorry Hydrangeas that had been planted in full shade by a former house owner, and we have a few ornamental ready to plant in their place: Columbine, Bleeding Heart, and a new one to us, Helleborus.  It's become a tradition to buy me a few plants each year for Mother's Day!  I love it!  I also got my bird feeder which is all set up and starting to attract birds!  YEA!!

I'm glad we waited to plant the peppers this week, as we got a really hard frost this past week that did a lot of serious damage to many plants and trees in the area, including some of our trees.  Looks like once again, our fruit trees will be non-productive this year.  I guess there's a reason that there we have to drive a good hour to see any orchards in this part of Oregon/Washington.  Thankfully, we have a great farmer's market!!  Luckily, our "Wall O' Water" season extenders kept our tomato plants nice and safe!

This isn't the best pictures, but we also ate our first veggies from the garden over the week-end.  I just love the first spring lettuce and radishes!  So incredibly fresh and yummy!

I hope all of you had a great Mother's Day week-end, and hope that you'll grow an edible plant or 2 (or more) this summer!  I always love to hear what's growing in your garden too!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Flax and Canola Fields in Bloom

Just thought I'd share a few pictures that I took this week of local fields in bloom.  They're so beautiful!!  I think the blue one is flax, and the yellow is canola.  There's so much canola grown around here that the local farm and ranch stores has started pressing and selling locally grown canola oil.  Yum!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Few More (Mother's Day) Postcards

I'm pretty sure I'm safe to post these here.  I used some of the extra squares that I cut for my granny square quilt to make them, and I'll be making these again for sure!!  I hope all of you enjoy this Mother's Day week-end. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Be careful what you wish for!

Gosh, I think May is a busy month for most people, but for us, this next week is full of excitement and joy.  We have 3 birthdays in the family, and Mother's Day!!  I'm trying to get postcards made for all of them.  The one above is for my Father In Law.  When my husband asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he said "a martini and a cigar"!  When my husband told me this, I knew exactly what I was going to do!  The 4 olives is his "thing", so I had to include them too. 

The next one is much more simple, but I just LOVE the color combination!!  I let the fabric do the talking in this one.  Maybe this red/blue/yellow combo is rubbing off on me, after the granny squares LOL!

Off to pop these in the mail, then get started on some more.  Hopefully I can get my granny square quilt finished soon too.  I have a great idea for it, and can't wait to give it a try!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

WIP Wed: Go Outside and Play!

Other than my granny squares, I'm afraid I haven't been up to much sewing lately.  I'm trying to set a good example for my boys and "go outside and play", as I like to tell them routinely.  We have some peppers ready to plant, and put up a little fence around our new strawberry patch. 

Unlike the rest of the garden, it's inside our yard, where the dog plays, so we're hoping he'll get the message to stay out!  Fingers crossed.

I also got this early Mother's Day preset... a big hook to hang a bird feeder from.  Ever since we moved, 2 years ago, I've been out of the habit of feeding the birds, but I am bound and determined to get back into it, as I love birds!  I just need a feeder now...

I also thought I'd share some fabric I bought at the quilt show over the week-end.  I bought it from a Seattle area vendor, Island Quilter, which is on Vashon Island, Washington.  Can you imagine taking a ferry boat out for a ride to a fabric shop?  I sure can!  She had the best selection of "guy" fabric that I've seen in a long time!  I know, from talking to her that she has at least 1 boy, as we were comparing notes about Internet, video game, YouTube issues with our boys!  I also JUST stumbled across this post from a Seattle quilter, Katie Pedersen who's going to be on Mark Lipiski's Creative Mojo today, and she had pictures of THE SAME PLACE, which apparently has a gallery too!  Now I REALLY want to take that road/ferry trip!!  Have any of you been to this shop?

I hope Lee doesn't mind, but I'm linking up this non-WIP post at her WIP Wed party!  Come see what other more productive quilters are up to LOL!