Sunday, December 19, 2010

Double Mint Fun: 2 Chocolate Mint Cookie Recipes

Before I head off to my favorite snowy mountain states to celebrate Christmas with family, I'll leave you with the two cookie recipes I most enjoyed making this year.

Marin's Andes Mint Cookies

3/4 c. butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T. water
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 1/4 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Melt butter, sugar and water over low heat.
3. When melted, stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips. Stir until melted. Cool 10 minutes.
4. Beat in eggs, soda, salt and flour. Cool 45 minutes.
5. Roll into balls and place on cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 11 minutes.
7. Immediately after removing the cookies from the oven, top each cookies with an Andes mint. Spread the mint across the top of the cookie when melted.
8. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and let cool.
(Note: I sprinkled crushed candy cane on these cookies, but Marin makes them year round sans candy cane. Yumm-o!)

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
12 candy canes, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
3. Add dry ingredients and mix again.
4. Sample as much of this truly divine cookie dough as desired. If there is ample dough left, proceed with recipe. Otherwise, begin again at step two.
5. Mix in crushed candy cane.
6. Drop by spoonful onto greased cookie sheet.
7. Bake 8-10 minutes.
8. Cool only slightly, then transfer to rack to cool. (Note: Maybe they shouldn't cool at all on the sheet. I left my cookies on the sheet too long and the bits of melted candy cane cooled, hardened and stuck to the cookie sheet. As this is an improvised recipe, I'm still figuring this part out. If you have any insights, by all means share!)

What are you loving making this year?
Whatever it may be, I hope your Christmas is
peaceful, joyous and delicious!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Design and Play with Metro Mod Quilters

I'm really digging the Metro Mod Quilters' Guild. Here's a peek at a project I participated in for last months meeting.

Jessica made this from a scrap exchange...

She mentioned loving the scrap with the tiny little crumb strips in it. (Can you find it?) I liked the improvised sense, the bright colors and that same little detail. I found it interesting, but wasn't swooning. That makes it a good play project. (When I get overly precious about something, I'm not always able to think outside the box and PLAY.)

When I sat down to work on it, I had a few "rules":
1. Only use fabric I already have.
2. Somehow echo the design elements that are already there.
3. Include more little strips, since Jessica loved them.

Here are the strips....

I kept thinking "borders", but ultimately decided that instead of framing the entire quilt, the borders could echo the block design. I put them on only two sides, making Jessica's piece the cornerstone of one big block. Here's how it turned out...

I went from thinking "interesting" to "love, love, love"! I so enjoyed the process, just experimenting with design and color, rather than focusing on the final product.

Check out what V did with it next!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three Reasons You Need Quilting Friends

1. They make you think about how to make your quilts the absolute best they can be today, without going crazy. While you all were right that unpicking would be insanity, it made the problem roll around my brain long enough to realize that a little unpicking might do the trick.

And it did.

2. They take you to sweet quilting events, like this quilt give away. All the families in temporary housing were delighted to receive their quilts.

Some couldn't wait until they got home to love on them.

3. They give you funny dreams, like the one I had last night about shop hopping with Amanda Jean and Shelly. Don't ask me why V & I were scheduled to fly home when these two were heading out. I'm sure if I'd slept a bit longer, we would have canceled all plane tickets and gone hog wild! Three days visiting fabric stores with these ladies??? Heaven! I woke up with a smile.

What do you love about your creative friends?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

To unpick or not to unpick

This weekend, Amanda Jean raised the question of when to just leave imperfections alone and when to go back and rip them out. In the middle of quilting a quilt myself, my first response was, "Every quilt is a learning process. Finish it and move on." Sometimes though, getting it right IS part of the process.

I started thinking more and more about my quilt and wondering if maybe I should kick it up a notch. Here are the questions I'm asking myself to decide whether or not to get out the seam ripper.

1. What is the purpose of this quilt?

It is a gift for a friend who got married recently. However, all of my quilts right now are "quilting practice". I want to push myself beyond my current free-motion quilting abilities, so I take it as a given that the quilting will be less than perfect as I learn. (I take Diane at her word when she says here, "Make the quilt for a baby, friend or an in-law. They will love whatever you do, good or bad, mistakes and all.")

2. What is the problem?

The quilting I'm thinking about changing is actually the part I love best! I wanted free-motion roses in the border and spent a lot of time sketching to find a design that looked like roses and could be done as a continuous line. Figuring it out and being able to do it on the quilt itself feels like a major step, no leap, forward in my quilting. All weekend I wanted to call a quilter to celebrate the milestone. (Ok, I might have sent one little e-mail to shout "Yipppppeeeeee!")

The problem? They don't quite fit the design of the rest of the quilt. They are dense, detailed and semi-realistic roses. The rest of the quilt is open curves...outline quilting, wonky spirals, big cursive words. Those prolific roses up against the spacious words...just not working for me. (We're not even going to discuss thread choice. Learning about that one from observation, not correction, on this quilt.)

3. Do the problems affect this primary purpose?

Not really. I think my friend will still like it and I learned to consider how the different parts of a quilting plan work together as a whole. It gives me a new perspective for future quilts, whether I pick out this one or not.

4. Is there a simpler solution rather than unpicking???

Possibly. Perhaps adding vining leaves or something around my words will make the contrast between words and flowers not so drastic. A bit of time brainstorming ideas on that one may be a life-saver.

5. Can I do better?

On this part, yes. I definitely feel confident that I can figure out roses that fit the open, curvy style of the rest of the quilting.

I am not touching the rest of it since I don't know that I can do better on the center curves or the wonky spirals in the first border. (They weren't supposed to be wonky.) Unpicking either of those parts sounds like torture and may not improve anything. Plus, it is just time to give her this quilt already!

6. Will I (or my friend) get out of it what I put in to it?

Undecided. Unpicking and redoing, probably not.

7. Do I honestly have the time to change it?

Also undecided. As I said's time for this project to be done already and gifted. Maybe not.

8. Will it feed my creativity and sense of satisfaction or deplete it?


Hmmmm...lots of undecideds or maybe nots. Unpicking may not be worth my time. I think I'm going to spend some time sketching some possible fillers for around the words. I'll keep you posted.

When do YOU go back and redo? When do you just let it go?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Top Ten Things to Do as an Auntie

(Bean all bundled up.)

10. Be in awe of your beautiful, strong sister as she calmly takes on motherhood.

9. Giggle a little that at times the Bean's breathing does indeed sound like a CPAP machine.

8. Volunteer for diaper duty.

7. Knit booties.

(Gratuitous bootie shot.)

6. Interrupt dinner-making every 3-4 minutes to kiss these sweet cheeks. (Mid-nap cooing requires an immediate response.)

(When she stretches, she barely fits in this basket, little long-legged girl.)

5. Watch everyone just fall in love with her.

(Bean and her great-grandma.)

(First-time Grandpa.)

4. Wonder how her little ears and her silky, curly-when-just-bathed hair grew so perfectly.

3. Cheer when she kicks, stretches her long legs out straight or focuses her eyes on something for more than a second.

(Bet you wish you had an alligator work-out suit.)

2. Spend inordinate amounts of time in one's pj's.

1. Smell her sweet, sweet baby smell while snuggling with this little bundle napping on my chest.

Welcome to the world baby Bean. This auntie is smitten!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Metro Mod Quilters Challenge

(My radiatiant block for Metro Mod Quilters' Challenge.)

This little project is singing to me! At the guild meeting, I suggested the monochromatic challenge inspired by Helen's strip quilt. To decide on a color, we tossed a coin onto the group quilt-in-progress and it landed on the bright cheddar yellow fabric in the strip I contributed. I've got good vibe going here!

Check out more about the block I finished and what other members are contributing here.

Happy sewing everyone!

Working Around our House

Things I've been up to the past few weeks:
  • moving furniture
  • relocating every book we own, which is no small feat)
  • organizing files
  • painting bookshelves
  • painting (and repainting...and repainting) walls
  • coming up with new solutions when my original plans don't work
  • mixing my own paint
  • figuring out how to function in chaos
  • making many trips to the hardware store
  • having only occasional mini-breakdowns
Things I've learned:
  • I like painting.
  • Even so, paint colors, like potential partners, should be fully vetted before making a long-term commitment.
  • Improvising is good.
  • Testing things out is even better.
  • Purposeful work pays off.
Hooray for a home on the up and up! All I can say is "amen" to the quote that kept me going....

"Only through labor do bodies become stronger, homes more attractive,
families more tightly knit and lives more robust."
- Gordon B. Hinkley,
(paraphrased from this book.)


Thursday, October 7, 2010

A New Path

Recently, I found myself reflecting on our journey through infertility and the many others who travel this path. I know some of that long and hard road, but now, lightness and peace creep into my heart. I feel comfort and excitement exactly where we are. In a moment of looking back, I know am so very ready to look forward and to own all of this experience as part of my story.

Along the way, I heard a variety of other people's stories. Some shared their own pathway to parenthood when they found out our desires for children. They opened up about their struggles, longings and joys. Those stories almost always felt personal and intimate. They whispered, “Here’s how we got through...(Yes, there is a way through)” and "Keep moving forward". They created a sacred trust and a glance into how varied the road to parenthood can be.

Many, many others told us second-hand stories of miracles, waiting, adoption, failure, medical mysteries, despair and hope. These stories were more difficult, leaving me often overwhelmed or baffled. What was this person, the Universe or God trying to tell me? Could someone else see into my seemingly indiscernible life, like a sorcerer reading runes, or were they oblivious fools prattling on about miracles? I know it was neither really, but at the time, I listened with occasional confusion, anger or fear. I left one ear wide open, hoping to hear the whisper of how our story was going to turn out and blocked the other ear, fingers and fist shoved hard against my head, afraid I just might hear a future I didn’t like.

In a much earlier time, while I prepared to get married, a counselor told me that my path into marriage was bound to be different from the one my parent had trod. I desperately needed to hear that wisdom as I watched my parents approach the precipice of divorce. What a relief to see these years later that she was right. Our marriage has been unique and beautiful. The struggles and the deep joys we experience are ours, belonging to and blessing the two of us.

I wish I better remembered this same advice while listening to the myriad of stories from so many well wishers. Where ever they thought I was (or I imagined they thought I was) at each point in my journey or where it would take me, I never needed to be anywhere other than where I was in each moment. I could listen or dismiss as my heart told me to, without attempting to predict the future. My faith, my uncertainty, my research, my questions, my grief, my hope, even my desperate desire to know how this would all work out...each had its own time and place. Each brought me here, somewhere far different from what I imagined as a young woman.

Now, I would not trade the unique journey or where it brought me. I feel calm facing the fact that I will not bear my own children and a tingling sense of adventure at how our family will be formed. Acceptance showed up last week, an unannounced but welcome friend. Come right on in, I say! Let’s get out the map, dream about new sights, plot the next route and then let's get moving! I am bursting with anticipation for the children we will adopt.

We are going to adopt!!!!

I admit, I don’t know what this next part of our course will be like. Nor do I fully understand what it will mean to me, to my sweetheart or to our children. However, looking back reassures me that we are traveling exactly where we need to be. Wherever adoption leads us, I trust this unique path more fully. As we move forward, we will be guided every step of the way.

Along the way, I promise to tell my myself, my love and my beloved children what each of us needs to hear whatever our struggle, “Have faith and move forward, child. Your story is your own. All your own.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

15 minutes

Victoria sponsors a "15 Minutes of Play" blog.
The idea percolated for some time.
This week, I played.

One night, digging through my stash a bit of fabric caught my eye and was made into a block.

Then, I picked up some greens and blues to play with an image from my visit to Central Park with out of town guests over Labor Day weekend.

A few days of 15 minute sessions gave me a beginning of my own abstract interpretation of the Great Lawn...!

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity." -- C.G. Jung

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kitchen Scents

This morning, my kitchen smells like basil from last nights dinner and ripening peaches. Lovely! My peaches from the farmers market were finally ready to be
blanched, peeled, sliced and frozen.

I love how these girls just slip out of their skins after having taken a hot bath!
Now they slices of gold, tucked away and ready to eat all winter long.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Quilt Retreat Post...Finally!

So, sometime ago, V mentioned that she was planning a retreat in Minnesota with a group of other blogging quilters. My little ears perked up. Oh, that sounded like an awful lot of fun. Holy Toledo! I had now idea just how much fun.

What a group of gals! Talk about talented and prolific! I mean, there is V herself, who whips up unique quilts at an alarming rate. There's Shelly, who posts stash reports on the hundreds (I am not kidding, hundreds) of yards of fabric she goes through in a year. (Stay posted on her site for the patriotic quilt she was madly sewing while we were there!) And Amanda, well everyone knows how much that girl sews! That's just on the prolific end! How this slow poke got invited to the big dance is still a mystery, but what a ball it was! We sewed and sewed and laughed and laughed, saw the quilt show, and then sewed some more. And the best part? It was the same weekend as my birthday! I haven't had a birthday this fun in YEARS!!!

Now, let's talk about birthday generosity. These gals gave me the loveliest quilty things, even a few from ladies I was meeting for the very first time. What sweetness!

This is the little quilt from V that looks awesome in my living room.

(Don't you love the quilting stitches?)

Here's a bit of Amy Butler fabric from Rene' (one of the nicest gals ever), shot cotton solids from Toni and Doris (a joy to watch as a powerful creative team and as truly supportive friends) and the Hmong applique blocks I treated myself to for my birthday. Can't wait to play with all this fun fabric!

Then, the quilting genius Shelly (yep, we had two Shelly's there) let me decimate raid her batik stash looking for a few extra blues and purples for my borders. I may have gotten more than a little carried away and she was nice enough to just say "Happy Birthday!", not "Get out of there crazy lady!"

Add to the mix Terry (who found the most fabulous Halloween fabric ever and I hope to see in NYC one of these days), Mary (who had the loveliest old Featherweight, calm presence and beautiful spiderweb quilt -- you can check it out on her banner) and Heather (who couldn't stay, but left the biggest box of fabric to share), and you have a quilting fiesta extraordinare.

Birthday + new friends + quilting? Man, I'd do it all again next year, without a doubt! (Yes, Miss Amanda, I'd even go running...or at least jogging...for short spurts...if there are no low hanging signs.)

p.s. Don't you love how Amanda's completed the red theme of her quilt?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Generosity: Soap and a New Friend

Ever since my trip to Minnesota this June, generosity's been on my mind. Throughout the trip, generosity kept peeking out, the first time with a new friendship and a bar of soap.

When I discovered Megan's blog some time ago (through Carol of Giraffe Dreams), I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. She posts about the things she is grateful for, her travels and favorite recipes (which look sublime by the way), but every now and then she posts some thoughtful reflection on a topic like, oh, Mercy with a capital M, and wham, I just want to walk right over to her house with a plate of cookies and have a real conversation. As I started reading, I hoped this girl would become a friend.

When I emailed her about visiting while I was in MN, I didn't know what her response would be. Talk about generous! My invite to meet for lunch was reciprocated with an offer of a ride from the airport, an invitation to stay with her and her hubby and another offer to drive me up to the retreat. At the rate she was going, I wouldn't have been surprised if she offered me her sweet puppy for company the entire time I was in the state! Was I ever glad to take her up on some of her offers! It was so fun to chat in real time, to eat her yummy food (and the excellent arugula/goat cheese pizza at Punch) and to see lovely MN.

Then, like good friends do, she taught me a lesson. Shopping in the cutest little shop, she came across something that smelled delicious and asked me if I liked almond. (Why yes, I do.) She started to tell me about a soap she bought that was almond scented and I immediately interrupted to say, "And you really don't like it?" (You know that something you bought that you just didn't love in the end, but you don't want it to go to waste and you know someone will love it? Mmm hmmm, I jumped right to that conclusion.) No, she LOVES it. She buys extra to give to others all the time, sharing her abundance. Made me wonder...why was my first assumption that she was offering to pass something along because she ended up not liking it? Yikes! Do I share only that which I don't like or don't need? Showed me again how joyful it can be to share the best. I can do more of that! Thanks Megan for the good example.

What have you been taught by a friend's good example?

Thursday, July 29, 2010


These are the little bits of generosity I saw sprinkled through my day....

- A crook-neck squash, two tomatoes and a green pepper delivered by the gentleman across the street straight from his garden to my grandmother's doorstep, a cane in one hand and bag of fresh-picked produce in the other. What a generous friend!

- A walking path paved on private pasture land for the neighbors to have a nice place to exercise. An extra treat for me as I don't get to walk past lounging cows very often. What a generous neighbor!

- My aunt's open home and a spread of hamburgers, salads, rootbeer floats, homemade cookies and all the fixing compiled by family who gathered for a short-notice barbeque to enjoy one another's company, visit with us out-of-towners and just catch up. What a generous family!

- A little blue bird hanging in my grandmother's window which was custom-made by my cousin's lovely and creative wife. (If you want one too, look here. Aren't they fun?) What a generous gal!

- A stack of blocks-in-progress sewn by Grandma while I cut fabric for my next quilting project. What a generous grandma!

It has been the loveliest of days. What generosity did you see?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where I Lived and What I Lived For....

Contrary to the Thoreauvian writing that should follow such a title, this post will not recount adventures in building a house in the woods or growing beans or visiting friends in the village. In fact, if I were to recount where I lived for much of the past few months, I could only give a detailed description of the inside of a Manhattan office or the case files that spontaneously grew there or urgent visits to late night copy shops. As for what I lived for, well, it alternated between hanging on for weekend respites and anticipating good Asian delivery.

All said, however, this time reaffirmed my need to live deliberately and seek the essential elements of my life, which is Thoreauvian indeed. So, I am grateful to return here. Grateful that this space is a place where I can accept the mean and embrace the sublime.

And boy do I have a sublime quilting retreat to tell you about! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Home and Family First

Today, attending to our home and family meant cooking (an easy) dinner* this morning as we were both coming home late and now, corresponding with an artist about a work I'm interested in buying for our home.

Yesterday, it meant having a family home evening with the hubster and then staying up (too) late to help him with a job cover letter.

Sunday, it meant staying home to write and reflect on what's being neglected.

These are some of the little things that said "family first" to me this week. What little things say it to you?

*I can't not share the easy dinner idea, right?

Mom's Taco Soup

In blender, liquify:
1 Qt stewed tomatoes (I used a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes)
1 Qt water
3 Tbs bouillon (or 3 cubes...or use part/all chicken broth in place of water)
1 tsp chili powder
Other spices to taste (cumin, paprika, garlic, cayenne pepper)

Heat soup until hot. (You want it hot enough to melt the cheese you'll add to your bowl...yum!)

Serve with:
Chopped tomato
Chopped green onion
Cubed cheddar cheese
Chopped avocado
Crushed tortilla chips

Enjoy! 'Night my lovely friends!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tonight's Inspiration: Loops and Circles

Tonight I fell in love with this wonderful looped song by Emily Hope Price

and this photo seen here.

Don't you just love being drawn in by unexpected finds? What have you been inspired by lately?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Two Works in Progress

Chinese coins, both stacked and rolling:

Trip Around the World, ready for lots of machine quilting practice in the wide borders...

Any works in progress in your house or studio?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Adirondack Daily Report

Dear Hermanacita-

Upon your request, following please find my report on the Adirondack daily. Suggestions included, in big sisterly fashion, at no extra charge.

When traveling by Amtrak, it is advisable that you:

1. Pack a lunch. Market manchego, local apples and fresh baked baguettes are much better than the pre-packaged, microwave-heated sandwiches offered in the (only occasionally open) dining car.

2. Do not, however, pack excess liquids. You will want to visit the lavatory as little as possible. Dehydration is your friend.

(Photo spot intentionally left blank. Your me.)

3. Enjoy the view. Farms...lakes...mountains...the surprising abundance of swimming pools in the Canadian suburbs.

4. Do nothing. When do you have hours to do nothing? Take advantage of it!

When you tire of that, kick your husband's trash at Scrabble.

5. Pack a camera with a speedy shutter. There will be (rare) occasions where the train will actually move at a fast clip...

...and you will want to catch those trainspotters striking modern-dance poses just outside of Albany.

(Do you think they are related to these S. Utah hoodoo dancers?)

6. Be grateful for a chance to get out and stretch your legs.

7. Notice things. Somethings will be right in front of you, seemingly mundane.

Other things will be un-photographable moments gliding past your window....gleaming copper sunsets...marshland swirled in foggy meringue...bold iron geometry of railroad bridges...diverging train tracks of ways not taken...golden glints of sunlight on a church steeple...curving tracks hugging the lake shore. You can't slow down, speed up, back-track, stop, use your flash or take another picture. Notice it as it just keeps slipping past your window, non-stop, the entire ride.

8. Finally, dream of your next trip by rail. Perhaps with one's favorite sister?

Respectfully submitted (with kisses) to a traveling kindred spirit,