Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Silence is Golden...

...or maybe Grade B?  {grin}


For several years now my younger brother and I have flirted with the idea of tapping the giant sugar maples in the woods around our parents' home. At the end of the season last year, I even picked up a few old school-style spiles on clearance at our local farm store in preparation. I can't say what exactly pushed us over the edge this year, but we dove in headfirst and haven't looked back! It's been a nifty process and we can't help but cheer at the wonder of the creation around us. Our Heavenly Father's majestic design is plain for all to see!

“Ever since the creation of the world His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made. So [we] are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

We've no idea what 'grade' our syrup is --- only that is sweet, tasty, and utterly beautiful in the eye of the beholder, namely, us. It had better be --- it sure does take a whole lot of work!  {grin}  We started our adventure by going to the "Backyard Sugaring" class offered at Blanford Nature Center in Grand Rapids. That in itself was a treat! Tree identification, the science behind the "Big Thaw," and a tour of the Sugar Shack had us chomping at the bit to get started. We're two weeks into our season and have enjoyed the trial and error of sugaring. It's become a real family affair!


We're using a system of plastic spiles, tubing, and covered 5 gallon buckets for sap collection. We have a total of 12 trees tapped (my older brother secured the permission of several of his neighbors to tap their sugar maples, too!) and our sap is registering around 4% sugar content on the hydrometer. Eek! It sure does make for tasty syrup...


The boiling process began with a propane burner and large kettle, with an ingenious little 'drip can' that my mom rigged up comprised of a quart-size tin can with a hole punched in the bottom and hung on the rim of pot with a coat hanger. Yeah, she MacGuyver'ed it --- my mom's cool that way...  {grin}  She calibrated her can so it would drip a quart of sap into the boiling pot every 15 minutes. She said syrup making is perfect for people who have short attention spans!  {wink}


My dad and older brother got a little impatient, so they went ahead and ordered an evaporator! It cuts down significantly on the pre-syrup boil and it's a little easier to skim the sugar scum off, too. Our largest sap collection on any one day was 32 gallons. That's a lot of sap to keep below 40 degrees!  {grin}

We've got about a week to go on our sap collecting before the weather warms up too much here in West Michigan. I must say that this is the most I've enjoyed the month of March in a very long time! I'm usually mourning the passing of winter and glaring at the fury of "March Madness" taking over my regularly scheduled TV programming.  {wink}  Syrup making will definitely make this time of year more 'shiny' in my estimation.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 

Christmas doesn't end at the manger!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lemon Cornbread Cake

[May I state for the record how frustrating it is to use an iPad to post on Blogger? The funny thing is, Safari gives me a "Complain to Google" button!]

...the jury of the D is still out on this one, but I loved it! A quick shuffle through the pantry landed me a box of Jiffy cornbread mix (what can I say, I'm nostalgic) and a box of "Cook & Serve" lemon pudding. From the fridge, I rescued an orphaned egg white, its full-fledged cousin, the last of the half 'n half, and a lemon that had known better days. A bit of sugar, a little flour, and a splash of olive oil rounded out a batter that baked up surprisingly tender for such humble beginnings. Mmmm...  (grin)

Try it!

Lemon Cornbread Cake

1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1 small box Jell-O Cook & Serve lemon pudding mix
1/4 cup flour
1 egg white
1 whole egg
3/4 cup half 'n half
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, divided
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat together the cornbread mix, dry pudding mix, flour, egg white, whole egg, half 'n half, granulated sugar, olive oil, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Pour into a greased 11 x 7" pan. Bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 27 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched. Meanwhile, beat together powdered sugar and remaining lemon juice mixed with enough water to equal 2 tablespoons. Spread over top of warm cake to edges. Serve.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Disappearing Pinwheel

...such a fun little block! I first saw this technique in a Missouri Star Quilt Co. video tutorial --- then Jenny did a part two that resulted in a Churn Dash. Eek! I love those... Jenny strikes me as a very sweet lady. I'd totally like to meet her some day...  {grin}

Here's a little cheat sheet:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mapping...

...a little color with the Palette Builder 2.1 - Beta software at Play-Crafts (and it's kind of fun!!)


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Somewhat discouraged...

I've been visiting the Moda Bakeshop since pretty much its inception ---- I love that magical place! And I won't deny a deep and abiding love, too, for quite a few of the Moda pre-cuts.  {grin}  In my down time, I dig drawing patterns that are "Perfect for Pre-cuts" (yes, clever, but also a magazine name....I digress).

Last week I drafted a pattern for a throw quilt I named "Casablanca" that worked well with a 10" layer cake --- I was inspired by the quatrefoil repeat, Moorish tile, and a West Elm rug. Inspiration strikes in the strangest places, but I have friends living in northern Africa who are coming soon for a visit and were on my mind. I've been intending to make quilts for each of their 4 (soon to be 5!) kiddos and thought a taste of their adopted homeland might be a nice touch.


In the end, I felt the pattern was fun, cute, and rather nifty. Such that I finally talked myself into filling out the submission form and sending off my little one for consideration as a Bakeshop feature. I draw in solids, so I tracked down thumbnails of BasicGrey's fall line, Persimmon, and used those as my fabric starting points. (I can't be the only one who loves the fact that BasicGrey and Cosmo Cricket designs are available on both paper AND fabric, right???) Gorgeous, yes, yes!

Today as I was wandering through the various blogs I like to wander through from time to time, I came across some new pattern releases by Emily Herrick of Crazy Old Ladies. She posted them yesterday and honestly, my heart sank when I got halfway through the post. To me it's obvious our block construction is different and the overall pattern isn't a mirror image, but I am very bummed that my darling Casablanca is channeling the same vibe as Emily's Urban Trellis. Before today I'd never seen her pattern ---- in pictures, person, on the web, or anywhere. I don't know why this makes me so sad, except for the fact that I finally worked up the courage to submit something I'd made...only to discover somebody else was slightly ahead of me.  {sigh}


Monday, February 17, 2014

Finally!!!!

...a fun (and flannel-y) finish! I am quite the good project starter, but oh so painfully slow at finishing anything. That said, I am totally geeked about this contribution to the fabrisphere because it's for a very special new mommy and daddy. One of my dearest friends, Brooke, and her husband, Si, have been in the process of becoming foster parents. They were officially licensed on New Year's Day and just a few weeks ago welcomed a "permanent placement" into their home: a 15-month old boy named Nathaniel.


They are beginning the adoption process and hopefully by the end of this summer Nate will be theirs forever and ever! I got to meet their little man this past Friday and I completely agree with his momma ---- love at first sight! I can't post pictures of Nate, but I can show you his quilt:


Because I ended up meeting him sooner than I expected, I wasn't able to do the full-fledged quilt I had in mind (maybe for his birthday??), but I'm pleased as punch with this cozy flannel strip quilt with super soft ragged edges. It matches the nursery theme (by accident) and I found the cutest snuggly yellow lion to go with it.

For the quilt, I cut two 3" and 6" by the WOF strips from 6 half-yard cuts (flannel is funny -- my widths were all over the place and some had pretty 'deep' selvages, too). Each strip is three layers thick --- matching flannel for the front and back plus a solid for the 'batting' aspect. I quilted the layers together with a single center line stitch (you could do decorative here, I opted for straight) then joined the strips with a half-inch seam, making sure to keep all the seams on one side of the quilt. I snipped the seams width-wise at 1/8" and then sewed the perimeter with a 1/2" seam allowance and snipped those edges, too. No binding made a for a super fast finish! The whole thing went through two laundry cycles and frayed beautifully! It's a really warm blanket which is good for us northerly Mid-westerners.  {grin}

Welcome home, Nate!

p.s. I'm guessing by now that you figured out this quilt doesn't measure 60" ---- doh! It's more like 54" long, which is still a nice length when you're from the toddler set.  {wink}

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Quick Coin Quilt

...coin quilts abound and I especially love the strip-pieced approach since they come together so quickly. I came across an easy variation with applique called "Lola's Coin Quilt' on Quilt Story but the numbers didn't jive for the resulting quilt. Here's my take with Fat Quarter and Jelly Roll (2.5") strip options in place! The more fabrics you use, especially in the case of the FQ version, the greater the variety in the final quilt.


In a typical Moda Jelly Roll there are 42 strips, so you can create up to 4 baby quilts using this approach if you use the whole roll. For each 30x40" quilt, you need 15" of a neutral solid (just under 1/2 a yard) for the sashing + 10 full (or 20 half) jelly roll strips with selvages removed for the coins. If you choose the full jelly roll strip option, remember to double your cut units: 4 - 6.5" and 6 - 2.5" as you'll need to join these to create the 40" columns:



For a larger quilt, if you don't mind a break in your sashing at the midpoint, piece four small quilts using sashing cut from the width of fabric and join the quadrants to make a larger quilt. You'll need 55" total in length (or just under 1-2/3 yards) to cut 22 - 2.5"xWOF strips. Otherwise you'll need to cut your sashing from the length (you need 2-1/4 yards to cut 11 - 2.5x80" strips).


I used to hate math...then I took up quilting.  {grin}

Just a little PSA...

I like Moda, but I consistently wonder if pre-cuts are really worth the price. I admit I purchase Charm packs now and again, but balk at the price of Layer Cakes and Jelly Rolls. The one Moda pre-cut that I simply can't wrap my head around is the Mini Charm (or "Candy") cut they just rolled out:


I appreciate the convenience factor of pre-cuts and yes, the variety is nice, too. But Candy Bar (2.5x5") and Mini Charm (2.5") cuts, penny for penny, just don't make sense! Surely I can't be the only one out here in left field...  {grin}

Monday, August 26, 2013

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

....one of my favorite weekly link-ups is hosted by Lee at Freshly Pieced. Called "WIP Wednesday," it is a fabulous collage of works-in-progress by sewists and quilters alike, just what my middle-of-the week needs! I especially like the page format Lee unveiled earlier this year. Each linky has its moment in the spotlight on the front page, no matter when you link up. I have found so many great new-to-me blogs, too, by perusing the links.

I have yet to add my own (shame, shame!) but mostly because I just haven't devoted as much time to sewing this summer as I would like. Perhaps I ought to start setting a goal or two, to keep my and my sewing machine from getting too rusty? I haven't slowed down in the fabric stashing department, but I'm thinking it's about time I turned all that wonderful into something more than folded fibers on the shelf.  {grin}

Friday, July 19, 2013

Politics aside...

...can anyone tell me why Google would return a picture of former President G.W. Bush and President Obama in a search for a "Flip Flop Party" ---- I got a chuckle out of these search results. I'm curious how Bing would stack up.  {wink}