Monday, March 20, 2017

Disembodied heads and rainbows, instead

Part of becoming ultra-organized and taking time to appreciate the little things includes making a bigger deal out of heretofore-ignored holidays.  So when St. Patrick's Day came around, I decided to go all out.

First, the cookies.  A simple batch of chocolate and vanilla, but you divide up the vanilla batch and color it.  Rainbow order, of course!

You then roll each color into a log, Play-Doh-style, and smash them together.  In hindsight, I wish I would've rolled each color out flat so the distribution would've been more even...more like a rainbow and less like a peacock feather or a creepy rainbow eyeball.

Encase the log in chocolate...

Refrigerate, then slice and bake.

See the creepy eyeball?  Oh, well.  The chocolate isn't very sweet, and the vanilla tasted almost like frosting.  Delicious!  Here's the recipe if you want to try it yourself.  

Moving on to decorations...I found this 4-leaf clover banner at a thrift store for a quarter.

Green placemats and flowers (helleborus from the yard)...a green box to set the mini vase in...

...and green ribbons for the chairs.

We felt very festive eating our rainbow cookies here!  Time-wise, the cookies were made over 2 days. The slice-and-baking day was very quick.  The "greening" of the dining room was done amid shifting batches of cookies in and out of the oven, so the whole thing was done in 30 minutes.  Not a huge time investment for a lot of enjoyment!

Speaking of time investment, though, I'm ready to put a fork in Fancy Baking Day.  My March effort was a total bomb.  I tried to make a strawberry fraizier - a lemon chiffon layer cake with homemade almond paste, homemade pastry cream, and homemade whipped cream.  I took a morning off work to make it and it ended up taking over 4 hours in total, not counting the clean-up after (which was considerable).  My pastry cream was runny, I didn't have enough almond paste, and the thought of trying to stack and decorate it in the fancy way the example showed was too overwhelming at the end.  I did it my own sad, slanting way, with strawberries sliding in the wet pastry cream and big empty patches from the scarcity of whipped cream.

At least the taste was amazing.  But...NEVER AGAIN.

I've very slowly been working on a new quilt, but my heart hasn't been in it.  I'm not crazy about the scrap fabrics (by the way, those corner stars have been fixed and now align with the rest of the quilt), and my lack of enthusiasm affected my work, with sloppy joins and wonky seams.

I guess I'll go ahead and sew it together.  Maybe I'll be more inspired.

Here is the quilt on day 2.  I'd thought it would be fine on the floor overnight, but I underestimated the vigor of our cats!

Speaking of cats and quilts...they might love them more than I do.

We're back to the season of beautiful sunsets...

But alas, the warm and intermittently very cold days have decimated our azaleas.  They should be going full-bore until late April, but the blooms are all spent now.  I got one poor-quality picture of the two under our living room window last week...

...and have eked one last limp bouquet out of one of the front bushes.

The real disappointment is that my very favorite double-ruffled azaleas didn't even get a chance to open up before the frost got them.  No more until next year...sob!

I've got a few last camellia blossoms around, their blooms frequently toppling over and rolling around on the floor like disembodied heads.  I'm not ready to rely on dyed carnations from the grocery store yet...I went out and cut tons of helleborus.

Helleborus last FOREVER in vases - weeks! - but I just don't like them much.  Maybe the brevity of the other bouquets make them a little more special?  Whatever the reason, I'm just glad that I've got SOMETHING to enjoy!  And there's always next year!

At least Todd is in a good mood, despite our poor flower season.  ;)

Have a great week!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Green & Bear It

Despite a recent cold snap, I'm seeing more and more green every day.

The yard is an absolute riot of color.  I love seeing all the different shades of pink, even though I have not traditionally liked pink flowers (except for peonies...swoon!).

I'm still out picking...

...and making my bouquets.

The robins keep me company while I gather!

I take note of all the spring growth.  Every day, a little more progress on sprouting out.

I've been bringing some spring into the house, too, and not just the flowers.  I changed all the fabrics to light-colored ones...

...made up some little 'nests' with ceramic eggs I bought years ago...

...and set out, here and there, some of the needlework that belonged to Todd's grandma.

So cheerful and spring-like...and I've added to the visual inspiration this pair of 'vintage' embroidered strawberry pillow shams from Garnet Hill...snagged at a thrift store for a dollar!

I've been very, very slowly working on my quilt.  I have random stars everywhere.

Making this particular quilt was a spontaneous decision, and one that I'm regretting a little.  I miss paper piecing.  Also, I wish I would've ordered a coordinated fat quarter bundle so that the overall appearance would be more cohesive.  All the fabric I used came from my stash, so it's very random.  I have learned some valuable lessons, though...pressing seams to the side instead of open creates more accurate points.  And, since this is my first time making HST (half-square triangles), I've been able to experiment and find a really accurate way to square them up.  So even if this quilt isn't as beloved as my other two, I'm glad that I made it.

Meanwhile, we'll just continue to enjoy the sun, the flowers, and the birds, and keep an eye on future spring developments!

Have a great week!

Monday, March 6, 2017

How much wood would a wood duck chuck...?

Strange to think that, in early March, we're "late" into the flower season, but the camellias are rapidly browning and falling off the bushes.  We still have our jessamines...

A few of our azalea bushes have started blazing...

And oh, the redbuds!

The warmer weather has really brought out the birds.  For the first time in two years, I spotted a wood duck!

Beautiful bluebirds everywhere.  Here's a male and female pair (the male is the more brightly colored):

Robins have come in hordes to eat the berries from our bushes.

It's not just birds that are more active in the is our darling Clotilde, who loves to nap on our deck...

...or drowse in the back garden.

Tabitha is ever watchful for this intruder...

...well, most of the time.

In other news, I finished my grey gingham quilt...and I love it!!

It measures around 52" x 74" - too small for a bed, but larger than your average throw and perfect for snuggling under...I mean, if you live somewhere where winters are cold! :)  I decided on a very simple way to quilt it - to "stitch in the ditch," or directly over the seam where the blocks are sewn together, and then 1/4" out from that seam.  I had an abysmal time stitching in the ditch.  I was using cream-colored thread, so any swerve showed prominently against the grey fabric (belatedly, I've discovered that my work station is 4" too high for ergonomical correctness, which complicates finishing a quilt, and that I also need a side table to rest the fabric on so its weight doesn't drag against the needle and cause wonky stitches).  I was so disgusted with my quilting that I almost  - almost! - scrapped the whole project.  But adding the 1/4" line drew the eye away from mistakes, and washing it seemed to help too, and now I LOVE it.  I'm halfway through another quickie throw project, so my pile of homemade quilts is rapidly growing!

Incidentally, I would probably never scrap a quilt.  My big practice quilt is currently (and permanently!) a cat bed for Bosewichte.  It's on top of a cabinet by my desk where I store my construction paper, and he can generally be found there, enjoying the quilt more than I ever could.

Fancy baking for March is next week, but I did make a little funfetti cookie cake for a neighbor...

...and I discovered an AMAZING chocolate muffin recipe.  I'd wanted to make some healthy muffins for Todd, but wound up falling for them myself, despite the fact that they contain no butter and NO processed sugar.  Well, unless you count the chocolate chips!

They're around 175 calories each and very generously sized!  I made these with bananas, and even though I'm not a banana fan, I thought they were absolutely delicious...large, fluffy, moist, sweet, and flavorful.  There's a hint of banana flavor, so next time I'm going to substitute pumpkin puree.  Here is the recipe if you're interested!  I highly recommend it, and baking with raw honey in general.  I've had great success with it.

Enjoy your week!