Thursday, August 30, 2012

A New Endeavor

It has been an interesting week trying to conquer the technical aspects of downloading, formatting and transferring embroidery files onto cards for use in my new sewing machine.  Before this task I mistakenly thought I had above average computer skills, but I've had to admit I don't know much at all!  This has been a good learning experience for me.  My friends at Missouri Star have been fabulous about helping..hats of to Jean and Ruby!!!  You girls are awesome, as well as all the others who offered tips and moral support...thanks to everyone!!

This is a test design I thought I could use as a filler block in a Halloween quilt, but it has way too many stitches and is too stiff.  I just used whatever color thread I had on hand, so the eye socks look like he's wearing sunglasses.  Oh well....!  The design is from Embroidery Library...great designs, wonderful service and good prices!

I wish I could tell you I finished this and finished that in the sewing room over the weekend, but the best I could muster was sewing some strips together for a modified Fence Rail quilt.  I am following the tutorial from Missouri Star Quilts Company for Fence Rail With Diamonds.  It straightforward, but getting the diamonds to match can be tricky for me.  The fabric is Asian Legacy and the colors are beautiful.  This may go to my MIL, she loves blues and greens.

Wishing you a quilty day filled with
Peace & Plenty!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Grammy Rose's Last Quilt

Hello friends.  I haven't posted a blog in about a week.  I think the long hot summer finally caught up with me in a big way and I had to slow my body and mind down.  Our weather has cooled off considerably and I'm beginning to feel like moving again. 

Our garden tomatoes are finished producing and I'll soon have to buy tomatoes.  We still have a few zucchinis and cukes, but for the most part the garden is done for 2012.  We will put the garden to bed some cool weekend.

Yesterday I bought some green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico.  Our little grocery store carries these wonderful chiles (considered to be the best) for those of us who cook authentic Mexican food.  When they are in season I buy several pounds and char them on the grill until the skin is black.  The burned skin glides off and the seeds are easily removed.  Wrap one of these smoky mild chiles in as flour tortilla that's been warmed on the grill and add a nice strip of Monterey Jack cheese and you have a snack fit for a king!  We always have friends over for Chile Day and we sit around eating and drinking and making merry! 

The leftover charred chiles are peeled, seeded and put into the freezer for future meals....pork with green chiles, Mexican casseroles, chiles rellenos, etc.  It's always a treat when I clean the freezer and find a bag of frozen chiles that I didn't know we had left!  If you decide to try roasting some chiles on the grill, be sure to cut a slit into the side of each chile so they don't explode.  In New Mexico, where my daughter lives, they will roast your chiles while you wait at WalMart and other stores.  Chiles are serious business in New Mexico. 

Thanks to all of you who commented on my Sunday School quilt.  There are some wonderful memories connected to that quilt!!

Today I would like to show you my Grammy Rose's last quilt.  Grammy was 90 years old when she hand pieced and hand quilted this wonderful quilt made entirely of her old clothes and aprons.  The design is an eight point star set into a circle.  This must have been a summer quilt because it's quite light.  I have used this quilt for about 40 years and it's in very good shape considering its age. 

I will meet you here again soon.  Until then I wish you a day filled with
                                               Peace & Plenty.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sunday School Quilt

As a young child I lived in Doniphan, Missouri with my Grandparents (Nan and Bob) and Grammy Rose (Nan's mother and my great grandmother).  Daddy was fighting in the Korean War and Mom had to work in the city.  The little house in Doniphan, which is still there today, holds so many wonderful memories for me.  Those were the days of playing on my swing on the old oak tree, eating watermelon on the front porch, making mud pies in the red clay soil,  cutting out paper dolls, learning to sew and basking in the unconditional love of my family. 

Grammy Rose was ever watchful of everyone's soul and if she had anything to do with it no member of her family was going to Hell.  In light of her passion we never missed a church service, Sunday school, revival, baptism or church supper.  We often walked to church, which meant a long hike up the big hill to the town square and beyond to the little church.  When we went to an evening service we would pull my red wagon along just in case I was too sleepy for the long walk home. 

At the age of 5 Grammy taught me to embroider.  In an effort to keep my mind on the Scriptures she came up with the idea of having me embroider Bible names and verses onto cotton blocks, which she then turned into a quilt for my bed. 

This is a scrappy quilt made from old clothes and feed sacks.  It's hand pieced and hand quilted.  Grammy wrote out my choice of words, but  "Prepare To Meet Thy God" must have been her choice! 

This quilt is one of my most treasured family quilts.  It's so simple and yet so full of the wonderful memories my family gave to me as a young girl.  The 'Daddy' block is my favorite!

Shortly before Grandma Nan passed away I took her back to Doniphan and we found the little house.  We were pleasantly surprised that the house appears to be in great condition and the present owners have planted lovely flowers and shrubs around the front porch where we spent so much of our time.

Wishing you a day filled with good memories and Peace & Plenty!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Meet Lola

Yesterday was an exciting day for me.  After all the months trying to decide what kind of new sewing machine to buy and considering all the angles and options, my new Janome arrived.  I think I scared the UPS driver a little because I was so excited.  He said he thought I was going to tackle him!

The new machine (named her Lola) is a Janome MC9500 and I must say that she looks a little imposing after the simplicity of my former machine, a 20-year-old Janome MC4000.  The old machine is going to stay in the sewing room as a back-up or for when I have a group over for sewing. 

I am now dipping a toe into the foreign world of machine embroidery and look forward to seeing what I can create!  I have wished for quite some time that I could produce nice embroidered labels for my quilts and add touches of embroidery here and there on my quilt tops. I must say that having an embroidery machine opens up all sorts of new shopping adventures!  Hubby is really going to love!  Actually, Hubby says that if the heatwave doesn't break pretty soon we are going to go bankrupt.  Since I've been spending more time indoors lately, I've managed to buy a new laptop and a sewing machine.  Hubby wonders what might be next!!

I'm off to spend some quality time with Lola.

I wish you a day filled with Peace & Plenty!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Middle Crust Anyone?

Another weekend is almost gone ~ why is it they just fly by?  We were gone most of the day yesterday and when we got home I realized that the gorgeous large peaches I paid a mint for were rapidly getting too ripe.  I sprung into action and turned them into a peach pie.  I'm not sure what I did this time, but it tastes just like Grammy Rose's pie.  Every time I pass through the kitchen I have to sneak a spoonful.

Here is my recipe for peach pie and a pie crust secret that has passed from cook to cook in our family for several generations.  First the simplest of pie recipes:

Pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie (use your favorite homemade or buy a box of the refrigerated crust)
1 egg, beaten
5 or 6 cups fresh peaches,  peeled and sliced
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (if your peaches are extra juicy, add a little extra flour)
1 cup granulated sugar (a little less if your peaches are really sweet)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon (scant) nutmeg
2 Tablespoons cold butter

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C)

Line a 9-inch deep pie pan with crust and lightly brush the crust with a little of the beaten egg to prevent it from getting soggy later.

Place sliced peaches in a large bowl and toss gently with the lemon juice.  In a separate bowl combine the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Pour over peaches and mix gently.  Pour peaches into crust and put small dots of butter over the top.  Top with the other crust and flute edges.  Brush the top crust with cream or half & half and sprinkle with sugar.  Cut a few slits in the top to let steam escape.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees (175 degrees C) degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes longer .  The crust should be golden and juice should bubble through the slits you cut.  If the edges are browning too fast, cover them with strips of foil.  Obviously it is really important to remember to turn the oven temperature down after 10 minutes ~~~ask me how I know!   Note:  I thicken fruit pies with flour rather than cornstarch  because that's how Grandma taught me. 

Let the pie cool to warm before serving  to allow the juices to thicken.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.....Yum.   I'm sorry but our pie didn't last long enough for me to take pictures of it for the blog.
HERE IS MY SECRET FOR MAKING FLAKY CRUST:  Fat mixed with flour is what makes crust flaky.  Not overworking your crust is important also. My favorite fat for crust is cold lard (I can hear my arteries cringing).  You can make really good crust with lard, butter or shortening.  Where it all goes south is when you add the liquid (usually water)...this is what makes your crust less than flaky and if you add to much, soggy.  For generations the women in my family have substituted moonshine, vodka or whiskey for half of the water you would normally use.  As the crust bakes the alcohol evaporates and you are left with a flaky, delicious crust with no taste of your secret ingredientl!  I have heard stories of Grandpa sneaking through the woods to buy moonshine during Prohibition so Grandma could make her pies! 

Speaking of Grandma, she made the best pies I've ever eaten.  She was famous for her peach cobbler, which she made in the largest roasting pan she could find.  In our family cobbler is serious business and it is not that sissy stuff with dumplings floating atop cooked fruit.  Grandma's cobblers were huge deep-dish pies with crust on the top, in the middle and on the bottom.  In our family we all love the crust best and have been known to have heated arguments if someone takes more than their fair share.  Grandma found a clever solution to this problem so peace could reign in her home.  The solution is known as the Middle Crust. 

Grandma would prepare a huge amount of pie crust and divided it into three portions.  She rolled one crust out in the shape of the bottom her cobbler pan and slid it onto a cookie sheet and sprinkled it lightly with cinnamon sugar.  This was baked until golden brown while Grandma rolled out her bottom crust and fit it into her pan and mixed her peaches.  Half of the peach mixture was placed on top of the bottom crust and dotted with butter.  The middle crust was placed on top of the first layer of peaches and then the remaining peaches, more butter dots, and the top crust was added.  The top of the cobbler was brushed with cream, sprinkled with sugar and baked.

Occasionally I will make a Mddle Crust Cobbler for a special occasion when lots of guests will be on hand.  Middle crust cobblers don't keep well due to being surrounded top and bottom by pie juice.  Keeping anything middle crust has never been a problem around our place.  We love it best in peach, apple or blackberry.  

Pies are serious business in our area and they are the first items to be auctioned off at benefits.  My husband beams with pride when one of Miss Barb's middle crust cobblers has grown men acting like fools to bid on it. 

Wishing you a day filled with Peace & Plenty and a big bowl of middle crust!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Taking The Plunge!

After much looking, reading, comparing and debating I finally took the plunge this week and ordered a new sewing machine.  It's not that I don't have a perfectly good machine, but I want one that does everything my current machine does plus embroidery.

This will be the 6th brand new machine I've bought.  My first one was a Kenmore that was bought at Sears on the EZ Payment Plan.  Buying this machine on credit made me feel like an adult.  It also made buttonholes and that was a big deal to me then because I was sewing primarily garments for myself and my infant daughter.  Later in life I bought a portable machine (White) for almost nothing at a damaged freight sale.  This machine served me well for many years.  Then came the wonderful world of computerized machines!  I bought one of the first computerized Singer machines, the Athena.  I was in hog heaven for several years with Athena, but then she began spending more time at the repair shop than at home and it was time for a change.  I said goodbye to Athena and traded her in on a New Home (Janome) Memory Craft 4000, which I have been using for about 20 years with never a problem.  I will keep this machine as backup ~ just in case!   Sewing machines have to prove themselves to me over a period of time.   

So what kind of machine did I order?  I bought a Janome MC9500, which is a sewing/embroidery machine.  I have heard nothing but good reports about this machine.  I expect there will be a bit of a learning curve with the embroidery feature, but it will be so nice if I can make nice labels for my quilts.  Next Tuesday it is supposed to be delivered to my door via UPS. 

It's a big decision when you decide to buy a good quality sewing machine.  The high-end machines cost $6,000+ and I find that rather staggering.  Some of the dealers won't even list their prices online and you must make a personal appearance at one of their distributors for the price.  No doubt this is so they can get the smelling salts ready to revive you after you hear the price!  For the first time ever I took my age into consideration when buying a machine.  If I was 20 years younger I may have caved in and bought the Janome 12000 or some other upper echelon machine.  For me, for now, I feel the right machine is heading my way. 

Truthfully, beautiful quilts can be made with the simplest of machines.  For years I sewed all my quilts on a Singer Featherweight machine.  These machines only sew a straight stitch, but it's the most perfect stitch you have ever sewn.  It's nice to have a few decorative stitches, especially a zigzag, blanket stitch and feather stitch.  Other than that it's the old want/need conundrum ~ what I actually need is one thing, but what I want is something entirely different! 

For now I'm plugging along making 26 Halloween blocks for a swap at Missouri Star.  Until next time I wish you straight stitches and a day filled with Peace & Plenty!