My First Quilt

>> Sunday, November 30, 2008

Warning: This quilt is pretty ugly. Avert your eyes if you must.

I made this quilt sometime between my junior and senior years of high school (over 10 years ago). I bought a lot of fat quarters of fabric and created a patchwork mess. Some of it is handsewn (I distinctly recall sewing some patches on the train on the way home from a college visit my junior spring) and some of it is machine sewn. Some sections are atrocious -- in terms of fabric and design -- and some sections are actually pretty decent. It's backed with soft maroon flannel and still warms up my bed when I go home. It's living proof that quilts can be ugly but useful.

It's safe to say I've improved since this first endeavor into quilting on my own. But looking back, I can only appreciate my willingness to try anything, a risk that knowing-nothing demands but also sometimes resist. If you're reading this and just starting, I highly recommending diving in. You can't wrong. Even if you do, it can be fixed, used, and learned from.

And if you need picture proof, here you go, warts and all.

A little of everything is happening here.

A closer view of a little of everything.

The most hideous section in the world. Look at the ugly bubble-gum pink border, the wacky late 80s leaf print, and early 90s purple something. I think the border print could have been made to look decent if it were not for that terribleness surrounding it. But, take a deep breath, this is the worst part of the whole quilt.

See, not so bad. I really like the bottom stripy section. It's one of the few things I would do again if I had the chance to remake the whole thing.

Learning how to make 9-square blocks and 16-square blocks. I didn't know anything about strip-piecing back then, so I cut everything out individually. The purple batik print on the right is actually very nice fabric.

You can see the back, with some sort of stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. Emphasis on sort-of. But there's a large piece of the pretty purple fabric as well.

Even a not-so-beautiful quilt can look decent folded up.

From the other side, not too bad when folded!

And impossible is nothing. You can improve.
From the horrors above to the niceness (dare I say beauties?) below...

...among others.


Friday Recipe: Savory Sweet Potatoes

>> Friday, November 28, 2008

Your kitchen may be brimming with leftovers today, but you also may have extra raw ingredients. If you're looking for something to do with extra sweet potatoes, this is one of the very few sweet potato dishes I really like. As I noted with the pumpkin soup recipe, I'm not a fan of sweet pumpkin/potato/squash dishes. If it has onions and garlic, however, I'll probably like it. My dad makes one version of this dish and my friend Sivan makes another. You can decide which you prefer or which elements you'd like to combine.

Dad's Version: Sweet Potatoes and Onions
Makes a lot

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 medium Vidalia onions, sliced
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic pepper
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients in a 9x13 pan. Mix to coat with oil and spices.

3. Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes or until tender (time will depend on size of potato slices).

Sivan's Version: Sweet Potato and Leek Dish

Makes a lot

4 medium sweet potatoes, sliced
2 leeks, sliced
olive oil

1. Preheat oven (between 350-400 degrees depending on what else you need to cook)
2. Mix sweet potatoes and leeks in 9x13 pan.
3. Add a layer of olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary (to your liking).
4. Mix everything.
5. Bake at 350-400 (depending on what else you need to bake) until tender -- about 25-35 minutes.

*If you have a food processor, it's the easiest way to slice the potatoes quickly. The baking time will depend on how thinly the potatoes are sliced which in turn depends on your food processor blade. Or, of course, you can use the very high tech gadget I use in my apartment: a knife. [Anyone who wants to donate a food processor to my cause is welcome to send it my way.]

*You can add other spices as you like -- thyme, sage, oregano all come to mind as good options.

*I like garlic, so I would add garlic to Sivan's version even though the recipe doesn't call for it.

*If you line the pan with tinfoil and/or coat it with cooking spray, it will be easier to wash later.

p.s. happy birthday mom!


Thanksgiving Day

>> Thursday, November 27, 2008

When I return to my parents' home, I
a) watch too much tv
b) sleep a lot
c) read cooking magazines
d) enter a menagerie
e) acquire clothes from my sister
f) all of the above

That's right, f (all of the above) is clearly the correct answer. After all,
a) my parents have a tv, with cable, with lots of Law & Order and CSI.

b) for some reason my internal alarm clock shuts off when I return to my childhood bed; whereas in my apartment, I wake up around the same time every day whether I like it or not, back here I manage to sleep a lot later.

c) several piles of cooking magazines greet me when I get home...lots of dishes over which to salivate...a risotto with feta is looking good...

d) there are many animals here:

Seagrams plays the starring role as the 90-pound husky-lab-shepherd mix.

Scotch, doing his best to reach the counter and get attention.

Snoop, my sister's lab-rottweiler puppy.

Dogs at play

The only animal missing is Sambuca P. Catz, a growing gray cat, who managed to escape being photographed.

e) my sister likes to shop; I don't. She gets rid of things; I acquire (some of) them. Good times.

My sister, who is both very generous and a very skilled delegator.

I think I managed to do all of the above items while also helping cook several of today's side dishes. While cooking, my brother and I had the following, now classic and somewhat ritualistic exchange:

brother: Turkey is so good, how can you not want to eat it?
me: I leave the meat to you. You should be grateful -- you get to eat all the meat that I don't touch.
brother: But meat is so good. There's enough meat in the world for both of us to eat it.
me: It's so nice of you to look out for me, but I'm happy with the non-meat options. Besides, if we had a vegetarian meal, we could have ice cream with the apple crisp, and that would be better than turkey.
brother: No it wouldn't, and since that's not an option, why not eat the meat?
It's all yours.

Somehow I think this conversation will continue to repeat itself...

My brother, meat-eater and entrepreneur extraordinaire.

On a crafty note, being home affords me the opportunity to take pictures of the first quilt I ever made. Pictures and a post coming soon.


What Happy People Do

>> Wednesday, November 26, 2008

According to a recent study covered by the New York Times, "Happy people spend a lot of time socializing, going to church and reading newspapers — but they don’t spend a lot of time watching television." I certainly have two out of three down well and, if "going to church" equals "enjoying shabbat dinner," than I might be able to claim three for three on the happy people chart. As for the TV part, well, this gives me a new answer in my arsenal of responses to questions about why I don't have a TV. It's a sign of happiness! (Or maybe it just forces socialization since I have to go elsewhere to watch TV (see: olympics, presidential debates, and law & order, and thank jim, david, and my parents respectively.))

But I want to pause on the socializing piece, and take a moment to highlight my amazing friends. I know that I wouldn't be where I am today without the incredible support of friends (don't worry, family, you're coming tomorrow). So many people have enriched my life over the past year, and I want to thank you even if I can't mention everyone by name.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to start a tradition of publicly thanking and describing some of the people who, for me, define friendship.

There are 5 people who comprised the rocks in my life over the past year. Five friends who regularly push me to be my best self, who intuitively know the difference between what I want to hear and what I need to hear, and who graciously make time to talk, visit, and stay close regardless of time-zone and life-cycle differences. Thank you being such an important and wonderful part of my life.

A master of the smart and silly combination, Torie has a song for every occasion. She tries to make sure I'm fashionably appropriate at affairs that require more than corduroy, and she knows enough about kosher wine laws to toy with them. She is insatiably curious, and I can't wait for her to visit at the end of December.

Claire is an incredible chef who offers wise counsel on matters small and large, food-related and otherwise. A wonderful listener, she's shepherded more than one friend through the ups and downs of graduate school. She's quietly independent thinker, and I'm looking forward to a few days together in December.

Exuberance is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Jenny. She's engaging, open, and direct; she will try anything and talk to anyone. A vegetarian succotash dinner made us fast friends and conversation over meals continues to bind us together. More than anyone else, she challenges and encourages me to move outside my comfort zone(s).

From the moment Joel offered me a popsicle and cooked me dinner when I showed up on the doorstep ready to move in, he's served as a confidant, advisor, and cheerleader. He sets hard goals for himself and meets them -- sometimes by sheer force of will and belief that nothing is impossible. And I can't wait for him to show up on my current doorstep in a couple weeks with that black 75 pound ball of fur also in the picture above.

Max does deserve special mention here: his tail-thwacking, galloping, and slobbering expressed joy at my arrival home on a daily basis last year, and that's not something to take for granted.

About a year after we first met, Sivan issued me a standing invitation for dinner, and over the next two years I probably ate at her house as often as I did at my own. She's sharp, disciplined, and focused but always makes time and creates space for people in her life. No matter how busy she is, I can count on her to be there for me. We are both so similar and so different from one another, a potent combination for lasting friendship.

Happy Thanksgiving!


The Grammar Princess

>> Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My friend Abby is the Grammar Princess. If I had a digital picture of her dressed up as such, I might even post it. But I don't. You'll just have to imagine her gown, crown, and very important magic grammar wand. In contrast, I am just a former college newspaper editor, with a glammed-up rhinestone and fluff tiara to show for it (oh, darn, no digital pictures from the college era). But right now I would like to borrow the grammar princess' wand and eliminate certain grammatical annoyances from academic work.

My first target would be "firstly. "Firstly" is, alas, a word. But it is a word that should be destroyed. It serves no useful purpose. "First" handles all jobs quite well. Note, for example, that I could have written, "Firstly, I would destroy 'firstly.'" But really, "First, I would destroy 'firstly'" sounds so much better.

End grammar rant. [And I promise not to judge your blog for the use of "firstly." Ok, maybe I will, but only a tiny bit. This issue is far more grating in already turgid academic prose (because non-turgid academic prose -- which does exist for all you doubtors out there -- would never deign to use "firstly" in the first place).]

To make up for my digression into grammar, I offer you some amusing and sardonic (amusingly sardonic? sardonically amusing?) TypeTees from threadless (many of which are currently on sale):

Find it, you know, um, over here.

Craisins, however, are allowed to stay in.
Available here.

Maybe scissors wants to join the fun.
Go here.


Some Fun Etsy Letterpress Finds

>> Friday, November 21, 2008

As I've noted before, I'm a sucker for all things letterpressed. I should be writing a paper but had to take a break to look at some lovely letterpress cards.

This one makes me laugh.
The "really super" pushes it over the top in the best kind of way.
Find it here.

These are pretty in purple.
Swirly but somehow simple.
Half-off here.

I don't love the shade of green.
But I love the typography quote that inspired the print:
“Each letter should have a flirtation with the one next to it” (Mac Baumwell)
Get it here.

This reminds me of Joel & Jenny, for all the bike rides that the BDD [bad decision dinosaur] may or may not have advocated.
This reminds me of Claire, for our bike rides in the foothills, including the time we got stopped by a cop for riding side-by-side.
Available here.


Friday Recipe: Minestrone Soup

This is a rather free-form recipe. What I mean by this is that you can adapt every part of it to suit your needs -- hate carrots and love zucchini, switch them! don't like noodles, leave them out! want more soup than stew, add more water! For those who want a precise, step-by-step, measure-by-measure recipe to follow, this may not fill your need. However, it might be the perfect recipe through which to become more comfortable in the kitchen. Try it!

hot and steamy!

Minestrone Soup

Makes 1 large pot

*All numbers are approximate; manipulate according to your needs or desires.

olive oil
28 oz. can pureed tomatoes
5-6 c. vegetable broth (or equivalent of water + bouillon)
1-2 onions, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves
3-4 celery stalks, sliced
2-4 carrots, sliced
1-2 zucchini, sliced
2-4 small potatoes (red or white), sliced or diced
1-2 heads of broccoli (you can use the stems; frozen is ok)
1 c. corn (frozen ok)
1 c. peas (frozen ok)
spinach (frozen ok)
1 can kidney beans (cannellini beans and/or chickpeas work too)
1 c. orzo (other noodles ok)
cayenne pepper

1. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil.
2. Add celery, carrots, and potatoes. Saute for ~5 minutes.
3. Add tomato puree and broth. Add remaining vegetables/beans.
4. Bring to a boil.
5. Add spices to taste. [I toss them in so apologies for no measurements]
6. Add orzo/pasta.
7. Let simmer for 3-45 minutes or until all vegetables are fully cooked. Taste and adjust spices as necessary.
8. Enjoy!

*This really is one of the most versatile and malleable recipes out there. Experiment with all sorts of additions and substractions. The more broth you add, the more soupy it gets. The less broth, the more stewy. Add the vegetables you like, withhold those you don't.

*Other veggies to think about: leeks, parsnips, turnips, cauliflower, soybeans...use your imagination, the more colorful the better, anything goes.

*Minestrone freezes well, so make a big pot and freeze some for later.

*This is as vegan, pareve, and lactose-free as they come.

the more colorful the better

add some bread and you've got a meal


Bread & Soup

>> Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I eat bread and soup a lot. Like most days of the week. Inspired by this blog on Sunday, I decided to make bread late in the afternoon. I intended to make rye bread but, alas, while I thought I had rye flour, I didn't and couldn't find any at the closest grocery store.

So I opted for the blog's peasant bread recipe. Seeing as that recipe calls for rye flour, you might wonder what on earth I was doing since I just said the cupboard lacked any rye flour. I just skipped it, using whole-wheat flour instead. I halved the recipe, and only used 1/2 c of whole-wheat flour rather than 1/4 c. whole-wheat plus 1/4 c. rye flour. As promised, the bread required no kneading and a little under 3 hours of rising time. It yielded these:

Which look like this when cut

and sliced open.

I used Washington Island Stone Ground Wheat again for the whole-wheat flour and King Arthur white flour. The bread was a little salty so I'll reduce the salt the next time I make it. One loaf is perfect for 2 people to share (though maybe I ate all of it by the end of the night), 2 loaves were perfect for the beginning of the week's soup-eating (there's still a half loaf left after lunch today). If I were having people over, I might make 3/4 of the original recipe (which says it makes 4 loaves) but shape them into 2 larger rounds. We'll see.

I also made minestrone on Sunday, and I'll post the recipe on Friday. To tempt you until then,


Rye Bread

>> Sunday, November 16, 2008

I love rye bread. I really love moist deli rye bread. I also love pumpernickel bread. And therefore I also love marble rye. It's all good. It's my favorite kind of bread. Yet I have had a hard time finding a good rye bread recipe that didn't require a sourdough starter or that actually tasted like delicious deli rye. I stumbled upon this website today, and I'm hopeful that the deli-style rye bread recipe post will be the answer to my wishes. It doesn't even require kneading! Now I just need to go buy myself some caraway seeds.

Is this not mouth-watering?

image from here


Friday Recipe: Whole-Wheat Cheese Bread

>> Friday, November 14, 2008

You haven't really been to the Madison Farmer's Market until you've had the hot, spicy cheese bread. That bread is a challah-like egg bread with hot-peppered mozzarella braided in. This recipe is not that bread -- it's a whole wheat dough rolled with cheddar -- but it's pretty close in deliciousness. You could always adapt it by subbing in mozzarella and hot pepper flakes for the cheddar. Serve it with soup and salad or eat it all by itself. One loaf will not last very long.

Whole-Wheat Cheese Bread

Makes 1 loaf

1 pkg active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp yeast)
1 cup lukewarm milk [I use skim]
2 tbsp butter
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. white flour
2 tsp salt
1 c. (or more!) grated sharp cheddar

1. Combine yeast and milk. Stir and let sit for ~15 minutes.
2. Melt butter. Let cool, and add to yeast mixture.
3. Mix flour and salt in large bowl. Make a well in the middle.
4. Pour yeast mixture into well.
5. With a wooden spoon, stir until you have a rough dough (you can add a few drops of water if the dough seems dry -- it will depend on the weather).
6. Transfer to a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic.
7. Return to bowl, cover with a damp towel, and leave to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (~ 2-3 hours).
8. Punch down the dough. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large oval.
9. Spread cheese on the oval.

10. Roll the dough up into a jelly roll/loaf and place in a greased loaf pan. [You can use water to "seal" the roll.]

11. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until the dough rises above the rim of the pan (~ 1-2 hours).
12. Preheat the oven to 400. Bake for 15 minutes at 400. Lower the temperature to 375, and bake for about 25 minutes more.
13. Enjoy!

*As you can see, I made two loaves at a time. It's a very easy recipe to double and the bread freezes well (but it will be eaten before you can freeze it).

*I mixed white cheddar and orange cheddar. Use whatever cheese you prefer. Sometimes I grate it myself and sometimes I buy it pre-grated.

*This is a very easy basic bread recipe. You can make the bread without the cheese if you want. It's good too.

*Rising takes the longest of any of the steps. Aside from the rising, it's a fairly quick bread to make. I've started it 4 hours before dinner and it works. Sometimes I get up in the morning, start it, let it rise all day, and then finish it. It's flexible like that.

*The flecked bread in the pictures results from using Washington Island Stone-Ground wheat flour (thanks Joel!). When I don't have that, I usually use King Arthur flour (available at Trader Joe's, among other places).

*I would have a picture of the final product if it hadn't been eaten so quickly. Use your imagination or make the bread and see for yourself.

*Thanks to Abby for first introducing me to this delicious bread, showing me how to make it, and giving me the recipe.


An Experiment with....Traditional Quilt Patterns

>> Thursday, November 13, 2008

If you've seen the other quilts I've made, you can tell that I often go for more modern looks and less traditional fabrics. I made this baby quilt over the summer, as a challenge to myself: how can I use the navy fabric and the brown fabric and how can I draw upon the more traditional quilt designs with which this type of fabric is often associated? I'm pretty pleased with the result:

As I haven't actually mailed this one yet, I'm keeping mum about the recipient. Let's just say that it's going to a child whose parents are are quite thoughtful about bending tradition in certain ways and, in that regard, it's amusing to me that this quilt is a fairly traditional one.

The design uses two main blocks: a three-stripe block typical of rail-fence patterns and a classic 9-patch block. My favorite part of the quilt may be the blue and brown border, made from the scraps of the strip-pieced 9-square blocks. (The father will like this no-waste approach to material.) I used flannel as the batting layer and backed the quilt with a deep red/maroon and cream fabric that meshed well with the brown and cream binding. The red fabric was the perfect size -- literally, I only trimmed the edges to match it up, less than a 1/2 inch from any given side. I quilted very simply on the diagonals, creating a diagonal grid pattern.


  © Blogger template Autumn Leaves by 2008

Back to TOP