Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Should I yes or should I no, now?

I just finished reading this post, which Jen ends with an invitation to join her in living a "simpler life", including saying "no even if I feel obligated to say yes". Ladies and gentlemen, someone's singing my song.

The past year has involved a lot of saying no. No to sewing projects. No to volunteering. No to dance projects. No to opportunities. No to quilt-alongs. No to jobs. No to swaps. No to travel. No to purchases. No to crafting. Sometimes I've said yes to those things, when in my heart I knew I needed to say, "Nope. Not this time." Little by little though, I'm working on that no.

Here in the blogging world of YES! YES! YES!, I sometimes feel a bit displaced. Heavens, in the regular world of "What do you do?", "What are you working on?" and "What's new?", I feel out of place. As I say no more frequently, I often wonder what I'm saying yes to*. Little by little, yeses have started peeking through. They excite me, and at times overwhelm me.

For today though, here's a YES to Jen's invite for simple living and savoring family. That's one I can definitely say yes to!

p.s. Said no to trying to find a photo to accompany this post and yes to going to bed at only a "crazy late", instead of a "totally insanely late" hour.

*Hermanacita....see how freeing that preposition at the end of a sentence is? You should try it some time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Moments: Creating order

Creating sometimes seems to make only chaos.

(The same bed from yesterday's post on peace...12 hours later.)

Creating sometimes makes delicious order.

(When in doubt for dinner, hubby's omelets are a sure bet! With leftover squash? Yum!)

p.s. Does eating a banana with my ice cream pie make my breakfast healthy? Someone needs to buy cereal...and bread...and T.P. around here. Guess that's me! Bye for now.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Moments: Peace

I'm needing a break from such long posts, so inspired by Amy's "Moments" idea....

The sweetest moment of my day yesterday was just after I turned off all the lights in our apartment on my way to bed. From the darkness of the hall, I came around the corner to the gentle light of our bedroom where I saw my honey tucked in bed, reading. The soft light from lamp, the cozy blankets wrapped around him, knowing I was about to snuggle up next to was all comfort and peace.

I love that feeling!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On the cutting board and on the needles

Two new projects I've been wanting to do for years:

First, a Christmas tree skirt made from our old pants and skirts.

I'm using:
  • pattern paper from a friend to design it
  • lace from my grandma's stash
  • tweedy cotton (that I thought was wool when my honey wore it)
  • velvety embroidered fabric from a skirt I wore in high school to our Argo Society activities, like attending the opera (I did not, however, wear it to the hockey game we went to)
  • corduroy and khaki fabric from both our work pants
  • new trim, yet to be determined, but almost certainly from here (ooooooh! They have free shipping for orders over $25. If can't get to the NY shop, do you want to visit their online one!)
Second, a lace shawl. This lace shawl.

It was all the online rage several years ago, but I could never convince myself to fork over the $20+ to buy the Rowan magazine it was in. Amy even kindly checked to see if she had it among her knitting library. It's just been on my brain again this fall.

Then, by a series of coincidences (begun by including yarn in the shop), I discovered the pattern is online (here!) at Rowan. FOR FREE!!! That my favorite yarn, was also on sale only sealed the deal. (Yes, several people have told me it looks like I'm knitting with hair...but it's MO-hair ladies and gentlemen!)

I'd been knitting for about a week and a half by the time I finished the first skein. I remembered reading that several people had run out of yarn with this pattern, so I thought I better check to make sure I was on track to finish with enough yarn. (There's some crazy math involved as you start with nearly 300 stitches and knit down to one.) After calculating the thousands of stitches I'd knit and the thousands yet to go, I realized I probably wasn't going to have enough. Aaaaaargh!

(Insert your own version of ensuing debate over whether to order more yarn that is now not on sale and won't qualify for free shipping that you may or may not need, depending on how the rest of your knitting goes. Or start over from the beginning, with only 10-20 fewer stitches, which will add up to thousands over the whole shawl.)

I ripped it out. The whole skein. I felt really calm while I did it, then frustrated and compulsive to get it back on the needles. Oh those first few rows of 300 stitches are soooooooooo long. But they are coming. I certainly hope my math was right!

How do you feel when you start a project? Or when you start it....again?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Contentment in a Pie Plate

When hubster was first called to serve in the Spanish-speaking congregation 2 years ago, we had an open house the weekend after Thanksgiving to get to know people. This year, we decided to do a repeat to socialize with the same people, who are now our friends.

I started making pie baking plans. Easy ones, like cream cheese and ice cream pies. Standards, like apple and pumpkin. Cream pies and fruit pies. Pies with meringue topping and those with whipped cream topping. Perhaps a tart or two. Old family recipes and new experiments. 20 pies was my goal.

Two years ago, my busy, anxious baking dervish had gone crazy making all kinds of cakes, breads and cookies. It was productive, fun even (in a challenging, adrenaline rush way) but flavored throughout by the ongoing theme song of anxiety. Would we have enough? Would they like any of my American desserts, breads and cookies? Would they be offended by the lack of "real" food (no meat or rice or beans), or by my horrible Spanish, or by our home, or by a gringo serving the congregation? Would they see the places I hadn't scrubbed? Would we have enough chairs? All these things keeping me in an mild (to not so mild) state of distress while I prepare to supposedly open my heart and home to new people.

As I started rolling out my first pie crusts this year, I felt those familiar feelings creeping in. This needed to be cleaned, that needed to be baked, this needed to be bought, that needed to be prepared, etc. etc. etc. And the what if's. Then I stopped.

I like making pies. I reminded myself again. I like this. When do I get to spend two whole days making pies??? And so I decided to enjoy it.

I started humming Patty Griffin. I thought of all the memories I have of making pies with my dad and my sister. I thought of how many pies we used to make together at Thanksgiving. I let myself try new recipes. I stopped to play a rocking drum solo or two with my honey on his new toy. I enjoyed eating out on Friday night at a favorite greasy spoon burger place, rather than rushing home to bake some more. I let myself go to bed when it was time.

I didn't make 20 pies.

And all of it? It was lovely. The pies. Time baking. New recipes. The feeling between me and my husband. Time with friends. Doing something I love. Holding cute babies. Laughing at the boy who hid out under the table, emerging only for another slice of apple pie. Meeting a couple recently baptized. Being invited to a guest's house for dinner this week. Listening to a five-year old's reading of "Where the Wild Things Are".

It felt good to truly open my heart, relax and just enjoy.

How do you find contentment?

(Sour Cream Apple Crumb & Dad's Famous Apple Pie)

If you'd like to enjoy my new favorite pie (an experiment that worked, yeah!), here's the recipe:

Sour Cream Apple Crumb Pie

For crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold
Ice-cold water

For filling:
6-8 apples (preferably Mutsu/Crispin, Ida Reds or Granny Smith)
1 cup sugar (or less if you like a bit of tartness in your pie!)
2 Tbls flour
1 cup sour cream

Crumb topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 Tbls butter

Prepare crust: Mix flour and salt. Cut in butter to make course crumbs. Gradually add just enough water to form larger clumps of dough, while stirring with a fork. You want the dough to stick together when clumped by hand, but not be overly wet. The drier the dough, the flakier your crust. Form into large disk with your hands and then roll out on a well floured cutting board, making repairs to the edges as you go. Transfer to pie plate, flute edges as desired and trim off excess dough.

Prepare filling: Peel, core and slice apples. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir 'til evenly coated. Add sourcream. Stir thoroughly. Pour apples into crust.

Prepare topping: Mix flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter to make course crumbs. Stir in pecans. Pour evenly on top of apples.

Cover edges of crust with foil. (Next time I think I'll try covering the entire crumb topping with foil for part of the baking time or chop my pecans smaller. The exposed edges of my pecans burned!)

Bake at 400 for 40-50 minutes. Let cool before serving for the filling to set. Enjoy, preferably with ice cream!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First Free-Motion Quilted Quilt!

** Note: This was originally titled "First Machine Quilted Quilt". 'Twas not the truth. What I meant was this is my first big project that I've quilted using free-motion machine quilting, but that is simply too long for a title.
Apologies for any confusion.**

A few weeks ago, I finished the quilt for Craft Hope's project 5, but in the rush to get it out the door, I was lucky to get a any pictures of it, let alone post about it. Here's a belated peek at the final product.

I was finally able to figure out free-motion flowers for the white blocks! Yeah!!!

I was excited about doing some free-motion quilting on a real quilt, rather than a small quilted project, like a table runner, but it was definitely a learning process...

...designing a continuous line pattern and attempting it,
...laughing and how my quilting SO didn't match my design,
...figuring out why my tension was horribly off in parts and fine in others
(stitch length it seemed),
...unpicking and practicing a more consistent stitch length,
...modifying my design and trying again
...being satisfied with my flowers, but laughing out-loud again at the bizarre quilting lines in my ribbon borders. Oh well, something to learn on my next project.
...finally, enjoying how it all came together to make this cute quilt!

The front:
The back:

I think I like the back as much as the front! I loved adding the bits of color in the binding and the "ribbon" of color in the borders and on the back. Those woven ribbons are my new favorite detail!

Then off it went to Margaret's Hope Chest. What a cool charity! Wanna make them a quilt too?