November 2009 Archives

Shopping!

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I am not one to go shopping at the malls the day after Thanksgiving.  The crowds and craziness just have never appealed to me.  I also prefer to let Christmas wait until December and to savor Thanksgiving as long as November lasts.

However, this year I made a small exception.

My sister and I enjoy going to Filoli for their holiday boutique.  This year the most convenient day for us to attend was Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Not as crazy as Friday at the shopping mall but still a Christmas thing in December.  For this event, I was willing to make an exception.

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We arrived a bit early and took a few pictures of the beautiful grounds and then got in line.  Though you can't see it, there was quite a long line of shoppers waiting in front of the entrance.  As we stood in line, we mapped out our plan of attack.  Which way to head after the doors open and how we'd loop through the house to be sure we saw everything.

The doors opened and the crush began.  The mansion is filled with holiday decorations and there are glorious trees in every room.  Garlands were looped down the staircase banister, a birdcage surrounded with poinsettia plants filled a corner.  Every nook and cranny has wonderful things tucked in and most can be purchased.

Also, there are a few food vendors there handing out samples of chocolates and caramel, scones and nuts, jams and fruit spreads.  All the samples nearly made up for their being no buffet and closing the cafe on Saturday.  Nearly.

The walkways were jammed with shoppers at times and periodically we just stood in place with our bags held close to our bodies waiting for someone to move and unstop the people-jam.  

The volunteers are very smart too.  They look for shoppers with filled shopping bags.  Then they will gladly put your name on your full bags and whisk them away to the holding area near check-out.  You are given an empty bag and can carry on without a heavy bag to deal with.  It's lovely and it also helps you forget just how many things you have already picked up to purchase!

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As you can see.  We were rather successful with our shopping.  No, we didn't need the cart to actually haul our purchases back to the car, but we couldn't resist setting our bags in one and snapping this picture.

Soon some of these treasures will be decorating our home for the holidays and others will be wrapped up for gifts!  I'm feeling ready for December.

-- marcella

Finally, a quilt!

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I know, I said I'd write about quilting too and there has been far more food then quilting going on around here.

Actually, I had been working on a quilt, but not only am I slow but it also was a surprise so I didn't want to share any pictures until the gift was given.

After I agreed to be the quilt guild president, many members came up to me and said "I'd never be president because you have to make the next presidents quilt."  Wait, what?  Somewhere in the last 11 years of being a guild member it seems that the tradition of the guild president's bee making her a thank you quilt for being president had become solely the past presidents job.

Sigh.

While there are few instructions, the gist of it is that in January the past president (that would be me) puts out a call for blocks in the newsletter.  That would also mean I had to choose a block and a color scheme and write out the instructions too.

All the blocks get turned in by the June meeting and then the past president has until the September meeting to put the whole thing together.

I like to quilt a whole lot, but I am not the best at quick decisions.  Usually my quilts hang out at various stages for months or even years until inspiration strikes.   This pressure to finish was not helped along by the fact that the two previous past presidents are awesome and award winning quilters who made works of art.  

However, I plodded along and put together a nice top.  I stalled a bit at the quilting but finally figured out that if I resized by favorite bamboo quilting stencil the two sizes would work well in the light areas of the quilt.  I did have to do a bit of un-quilting until I got the thread colors just right but even that wasn't to bad.

Binding, I love.  It's true, the thing that seems to hang up the most quilters is the part I really love to do.

Nope, the part that stumped me to no end was the darn label.  Somewhere, some quilter declared that all quilts needed a label and quilters believed her.  Personally, I hate labels.  To me, no matter how nicely done they look like the label on a mattress.  A big old square afterthought slapped on.  Really, I don't care if people put fancy artwork around the edge, or heartwarming photographs of the quilt owner or even if they hand letter it in fancy calligraphy.  It always is a big old square of off-white or white fabric slapped on the backside of a quilt.  

When I was a new quilter I made a label for one quilt.  It was a baby quilt for my nephew.  I looked at it and thought it was really ugly.  That was it for me.  There are better options then a label and so I just say no to labels.

However, this was a guild thing for the guild president and I figured I had to "follow the rules" and cave on the label issue.

A good friend offered up a package of fabric sheets that go in the printer.  I found some free quilt label artwork online.  I added the appropriate text and pushed print.  Chomp, chomp, chomp.  The printer ate that fabric right up.

I tried again with the same results.

Grrr.  I thought perhaps it was because this particular brand of printer fabric was plastic backed.  My printer is nothing if not fussy.  So, off to the quilt shop to purchase a different brand.  Guess what the shop no longer carries?  They sent me and a 40% off coupon to the chain fabric store and thankfully they had the other brand of fabric sheets.

Home again.  Load the printer.  Pull up the document and press print.  Chomp, chomp, chomp .  Again my darn printer ate up the fabric sheets.

A very nice quilt shop owner suggested I clip the corners of the fabric sheet.  She even drew a diagram for me of how much to clip.

Nope, my printer ate that sheet up too.  In desperation (I only had two sheets left) I ironed the  smudged and wrinkled sheet of fabric smooth and whacked off more from the corners.

It worked!  Yippee!  And, to make it even more miraculous it printed on a non-smuged part of the fabric.

I peeled of the backing, soaked the fabric and did all the proper incantations to keep the specially formulated and pre-treated fabric from bursting into flames.  Then I tried to press the edges of the label under.

Scortchville.

Yep, half the label was now an unattractive brown color.  

This was about the time I decided to leave town to go quilting and eating.  

I came home ready to get that darn label, the bane of my quilting existence, done.  Oh, did I mention that my printer had run out of ink just before leaving town?  So, one trip to the office supply store.  Some time re-creating the label that I had thrown in the computer trash because I had printed it already and wouldn't need to keep it anymore.  Finally, finally I was ready to print.

Nothing.

Zip, nada, zilch.  Nothing happened when I tried to print.  

Seems when I went out of town my computer was upgraded and no longer recognized my troublesome printer.

Seriously, how can so many things stand in the way of printing a stupid label?

After whining, and saying naughty words and trying to get my computer to cooperate and bugging my husband at work I decided to just give up.  It's not like I wasn't already known at guild for being to upstart who does everything "wrong".  

Then a friend called and I whined at her.  Was I even smart enough while whining to think hey, she and her husband own a graphic design business?  Nope.  Too busy wallowing.  Then she suggested very generously that I send her the .pdf and bring over the fabric sheets and she could print it out on one of their printers.

Naturally her printer behaved and spit out the ugly label with nary a hitch.  I plopped myself down at her kitchen counter and just sewed on the label.  No soaking, no incantation and certainly no pressing!

In spite of the ugly label on the back, I think the quilt turned out really well.  I'm happy with the quilting and I must say it hangs darn flat and square.  If I had been smart enough to take a photograph at home with a tri-pod you would see that too.  Unfortunately, I didn't think of that and ended up taking a picture of it hanging on the wall at the guild meeting.  Still pretty flat but I cannot manage to take a straight shot ever.  So, things are a bit crooked because of me, not because the quilt is crooked.

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The best part is, the quilt is done and delivered!  Oh, that and I'll never be guild president again so I'll never have to do this again either!

Back to quilting my own projects.

-- marcella

Eating our way home

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Most quilters would plan their route to and from a quilting event by stopping at as many fabric shops as possible.

My friend and I are not most quilters.

We planned our trip by food stops.  In fact, on the way home we only made one fabric stop - well two, if you are generous and count the french linen shop as buying fabric - and four food stops.

But first, distracted as we were by the thought of pastry, we had to sew the morning away.

While we were getting ready for the day in our room my friend went out onto the balcony.  She came back in and told me there were drummers and it sounded like it was coming from the beach.  We decided to take a walk and see if we could find out what it was before breakfast.

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Turns out much heartier souls than we were out running the Big Sur half marathon.  The drumming we heard was a group of women Taiko drummers who played all during the race.
The race goes up and back along the same course so runners were passing by us from both directions.  Speedy runners were already headed back at 7:30 - not a bad distance traveled in only half an hour!  We had a lot of fun listening to the drummers and cheering on the runners who passed by.

After breakfast we quilted and by noon were packed up and on our way.

First stop was Back Porch fabrics.  I don't think I was ten feet inside the door when a new book leapt into my hands.  Also, a bonus for me!  After stopping in during shop hops and trips to Asilomar I finally had spent enough to earn a $25 gift certificate.  Now, I must remember to take it in February when I'll be back again.

Next was our first food stop of our adventure.  We pulled off the freeway at a little produce stand that was plunked down in the middle of a field of artichoke bushes.

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I did get some artichokes.  What we really were there for though was brussel sprouts.  Have you seen them growing?  Most people have only seen them in plastic bags at the grocery store.  My friend's husband likes them a lot so we just had to get him some on a stalk so he could see how they grow.

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We had also been told that this was the place to eat deep fried artichoke hearts.  While my friend did buy a bag of frozen ones to take to a neighbor who loves them, we got distracted by the $1 tacos.

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Seriously, could you resist this?  It was awesome. Sitting on the curb in the sunshine in the middle of an artichoke field eating delicious tacos.  Heaven!

Fortified by our quick lunch, we were off for smoked meats.

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I still can't remember how my family heard about this place, but they really have the very best smoked bacon.  Thick, meaty and smoky porkiness.  Naturally a few other things jumped into the grocery basket, but really we were there for the bacon and bought plenty to keep us happy until we are in the neighborhood again.  

Down the hill and around the corner took us to Glaum egg farm.  Now, most people wouldn't be delighted at the thought of visiting a chicken farm.  However, this place has an egg vending machine.  Not only that, but after you pay a curtain rises on a window and there are chicken puppets who play and dance to "In the Mood".  Seriously, you just can't miss that performance.  

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Put your money in the slot and out pops a flat of eggs.  That is just cool all by itself.  But then the music starts.  Sadly, the sun was at our backs so most of my photo's have too much reflection on the glass to see well.  I did get one close up of the bouncing chicks though.

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And yes, they were even dressed up for the season.  Truly, it makes me want to go back in December to see their costumes.  It's really one of the funniest things I've seen and we did laugh in the car for quite a while as we made our way to our final food stop.

Our last food stop was Gayle's bakery.  I love this place.  I've eaten more than my fair share of deliciousness since I found it in 1983.  Recently my sister told me she used to go even before then with an old friend of ours who used to live in Aptos.  Can you believe they ate there and neither one ever told me about it?  

The bakery is always crazy busy and Sunday afternoon was no exception.  We bought our bread and pastry and then had to sit and eat a treat for energy for the ride home.  All that food shopping was serious work you know.  Let me just say that the ollalieberry turnover was a winner.

There was a bit of beach traffic, but all in all it was a nice ride home.

The best part was being greeted by my husband who had made us pot roast for dinner and pumpkin pie for dessert!  I am so spoiled.

-- marcella

Quilting at Asilomar

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For the second time, I took a weekend and went on a quilting retreat at Asilomar.  The retreat is organized by Janet of Hen Scratch Quilting.  She does several different ones during the year.  The retreat is great because the time is ours to just quilt.  We each have our own table to work at and there are ironing stations that we share.  The truly motivated start early in the morning and work away until midnight when we have to lock up our sewing room.  

Not that I'm not motivated, but I am a girl who likes her sleep.  I don't start sewing until after breakfast and am generally in bed by midnight.  I also find that a walk now and then is a good thing.  Even with my slothful ways I was able to get quite a bit accomplished.

Aside from the room to sew, there are nice rooms to stay in and a great dining hall where they feed us a bit too well.

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Here's the dining hall.  This front portion of the building was designed by Julia Morgan back when the park was a YWCA camp.  We are all to happy to go there three times a day for delicious meals that we don't have to cook or clean up after.  It is rather sad how pavlovian we become.  No sooner does someone hear the bell signaling that the hall is open then we all start packing up our things and heading over.

Saturday was a beautiful day and by our morning walk the sun was shining and the beach was crowded.

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It took a bit of waiting to get a photo without random people in the frame,but worth the wait don't you think?  I did get someone's shoes in there though.  As beautiful as the weather was it is still a Northern California beach which means cold water.  Brr, someone had chilly feet.

Even the surfers were out in full force.  You can see that they wear wet suits here to stay a little warmer.

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I worked on the French Kiss blocks from the workshop at Quilting in the Garden.  After much sewing and even more trimming up of angles, I did manage to finish all 50 (!) blocks.  Now they are packed away for later as I have other projects in line first to finish.  I did spend some time working on an old Hawaiian appliqué project as well as started on a little Moda kit which makes 6 small Christmas stockings.

I'm quite happy with all that I was able to accomplish over the weekend.  The women at the retreat were wonderful so I'm sure I'll be signing up to go again next November.

-- marcella

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

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Talk about a delicious dessert!  A couple of years ago my sister got me a subscription to a magazine called "Taste of Home".  I confess that while I love to read any and all cooking magazines, I didn't often cook from this one.  It was a bit too...church lady.  Lots of recipes began with cream of something soup or ended with crushed cracker toppings and the like.  Reasonable fat and calorie levels are generally unheard of.

In the November issue I spotted this recipe and knew I needed to find an excuse to make it. Granted, the calorie levels aren't so great, but it is dessert.  At least it contains no mixes and especially no cream of anything soup! I had signed up to take dessert to the women's group at church where pumpkin desserts were requested, but we went on vacation instead.  I was at quilt guild the night a friend had the whole gang over to her house for hanging out and eating pumpkin desserts.  Book club!  That was my last hope.  The hostess graciously let me take dessert.  She is an awesome baker so it was really nice of her to let me do some baking of my own.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it and conversation pretty much stopped when the treats were pulled out.  That is always a good sign that people like what they are eating!

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About the top.  Once upon a time my nice husband bought me one of those fancy little torches that cooking catalogs sell. What a waste of money. The darn thing spit fuel atop our desserts, took forever to melt the sugar let alone carmelize it, and frequently ran out of fuel halfway through requiring a fill up that never seemed to work well. I eventually gave up and went to the hardware store and bought a blow torch. The thing is easy to operate and only cost $20.  Less than the fancy thing and much more effective. The only trick is getting to be the one to use it.  It's so fun that everyone in the house will want a chance to try it.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee


This recipe is from the November 2009 issue of Taste of Home magazine.  

I found it made 9 - 4 oz servings.


8 egg yolks

1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided

3 cups heavy whipping cream

3/4 cup canned pumpkin

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves


In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar. In a small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat until bubbles form around sides of pan. Remove from the heat; stir a small amount of hot cream into egg yolk mixture. Return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Stir in the pumpkin, vanilla and spices.


Transfer to eight 6-oz. ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in a baking pan; add 1 in. of boiling water to pan. Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 25-30 minutes or until centers are just set (mixture will jiggle). Remove ramekins from water bath; cool for 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.


If using a creme brulee torch, sprinkle with remaining sugar. Heat sugar with the torch until caramelized. Serve immediately.


printable version - cremebrulee.pdf


-- marcella

Halloween Treat

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I love Halloween.  I'm sure part of it is my great love for candy and all things sweet.  

It's also the costumes.  My mom made us really nice costumes when we were kids.  Granted, we didn't get a new one every year - I think I had to be Raggedy Ann for about four years running - but they were always nice costumes that we got to play dress up with for the rest of the year.

The first halloween I remember was when we lived in La Mirada, CA.  I was probably about 4 at the time and I had an angel costume.  For some reason I have this memory of my mom drying the wings in the oven.  Someday I'll have to ask her if that is real or just some twisted thing I've dreamt up.  At any rate, I was so excited to go trick or treating that I went wingless next door to the neighbors, all alone and without asking, and rang the doorbell.  I was so excited to get that candy.  Sadly, when we went "officially" later I was told I didn't get a piece of candy because I'd already gotten one.

As an adult I love seeing the children dress up and I always give out more than one piece of candy. As long as they say "trick or treat" they get seconds if they come back to my door.  Isn't it odd how simple events shape how we behave later?

My son is long past the dress up stage and I haven't sewn a costume for him in years.

We live in a neighborhood without trick or treaters, so it's rare that our doorbell rings.

This year I decided that if we didn't have trick or treaters, we'd at least have a treat.  So, I hauled myself out of bed on Saturday morning to try out a new cinnamon roll recipe.  I had picked up the October issue of Cooking Light magazine on a whim at the grocery store.  We've actually tried about 4 recipes from the issue so far and have enjoyed them all.  Halloween seemed the perfect time to try out a sweet.

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While breakfast was a bit later than usual, it was worth the wait.  The rolls weren't too sweet nor too bready.  They had a nice amount of filling and I do like it when the filling is made with brown sugar rather than white.  I made the rolls without nuts or raisins since I don't care for them that way, but I'm sure you could add them if you prefer.

Cinnamon Rolls


From the October issue of Cooking Light magazine.  I followed the recipe pretty closely.  The only difference was to split the batch of rolls.  I baked one pan of 9 and wrapped the second pan well and put it into the freezer.  With luck the frozen rolls will thaw and bake nicely.  Yield: 18 servings (serving size: 1 roll)


ROLLS:

1  cup  warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)

6  tablespoons  melted butter, divided

1/3  cup  granulated sugar, divided

1  package quick-rise yeast

16.88  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 3 3/4 cups)

1  large egg, lightly beaten

1/4  teaspoon  salt

Cooking spray

2/3  cup  packed brown sugar

1 1/2  tablespoons  ground cinnamon

ICING:

3  tablespoons  butter, softened

2  tablespoons  heavy cream

1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract

1  cup  powdered sugar


To prepare rolls, combine milk, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups. Add egg and remaining granulated sugar to bowl. Stir in 4.5 ounces (1 cup) flour; let stand 10 minutes.

Add 11.25 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) flour and salt to milk mixture; stir until a soft dough forms (dough will be sticky). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 6 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 35 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rise 35 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; roll dough into an 18 x 11-inch rectangle. Brush remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter over dough; sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture. Beginning at one long side, roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Cut dough into 18 (1-inch) slices. Arrange 9 slices, cut sides up, in each of 2 (8-inch) square baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 35 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Uncover rolls. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes in dishes on a wire rack. 


To prepare icing, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter and cream; stir with a whisk. Stir in vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar; stir until blended. Spread icing over rolls; serve warm.



printable version: cinnamon_rolls.pdf

-- marcella