Friday, October 24, 2014

The Great Reveal!!

Oh, finally the day has come when I can show you the round robin project we eight did with eight like minded quilters in Germany.  I've been so anxious to show you these beginning blocks and finished tops I feel absolutely carbonated!

In case you don't remember some of my previous blogs, this is what happened.  I asked seven of my quilty friends if they would be interested in doing a round robin with seven of my friend Elke's quilty friends in Germany.  We would send a 12.5 inch block and they would add four borders. Elke and her friends would do the same.  There are eight of us so we were divided into two groups of four.  We all didn't get to work on each block.

 On January 2 I mailed our eight blocks to Elke.  She mailed her eight to me.  Friend Marilyn, little Adelaide and I opened the box, drew names from a bowl and divided up the blocks and the people to work on them.  A schedule was made.  Our group asked for 6 weeks for each round.  Elke's group took two months for each round. This accommodated busy schedules and vacations during the summer.

Now, because Elke's group opened their box of quilt tops last night, I can finally show you the blocks they sent and the quilt tops we returned.  I don't mind telling you how puffed up with pride I am about what we sent back.  And how the center blocks were transformed into something truly beautiful.

I can't stand it any longer!  Here they are:

 Angela sent this center block and requested only red and white......
 And we sent her this!

 Anja  sent this center block
 And we sent this back to her!!  I know!  It's amazing, isn't it????

 Anke sent this starry batik center block
 And we sent this back!

 Annette sent this (and I dare you to find fault with her points...phew!)
 And this was what she received back
I wanted to zoom in to those corner blocks Jan did. She is a very meticulous quilter and on her borders she usually featured embroidery which really enhanced the quilt (see Angela's block at the top)  On this blue one she sent away for just the right color thread!

 This was Maria's center
 And we worked this up for her.

 Marion sent this stunningly done block.  I would NEVER attempt this block because of those points, which were perfect, by the way.
 We sent this back

 Ulrike sent this,
 And look what we did!

 Elke sent us the most challenging center.  Hers honored sculptures called Nana's on display in Hanover.  She wasn't comfortable with applique and was a bit nervous about doing an applique center that was going to be worked on by others. She even padded it!  We were all intrigued with the Nana sculptures and googled about them, thanks to Elke.
And this is what we sent back.  The final border continues the celebration of the Nana's.

SO! There you have it.  From such humble beginnings a quilt is born.  We have not received our blocks yet, they will be mailed in two weeks and then we will have our great reveal part two!  We are very anxious to see them.

All in all this project was a huge success.  The reason I started this blog was to meet people overseas and I certainly accomplished that!  But this project was something I've wanted to do for a long, long time and after meeting Elke and approaching her about his idea, well, it just took root and grew into something very special.  There were few concerns on all of our minds....and it turned out we all had the same high standards and concerns.  Workmanship,  materials used, fitting this into already busy lives.  Their concerns about us were the same ones we had about them so I knew it would be just fine. Really, it all just fell into place and worked out.  Some email each other regularly now - new friendships made.   Mission accomplished!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Brake for Bakeries

That should be a bumper sticker on my car.

Small town bakeries ... there's nothing like them.  One day a few years ago PH, oh, so patient PH, drove with me down the coast of Michigan and we stopped at every single one between here and the state line. That's love.

Yesterday I was on my way to pick up the girls from school and have a sleepover at their house and I had the whole beautiful sunshiny day ahead of me so I left home early and drove 1.5 hours to this one. (First hour is just getting from home to Grand Rapids)

We always called it the Bailey bakery because that's the little town it's in, but this is the real name.  My mom used to make holiday pilgrimages to this place to buy their dinner rolls for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  She would buy several dozen, wrap them very well and freeze them.  This place used to close after deer hunting season so you had to get Thanksgiving and Christmas rolls in one trip.   But oh, this time of year the drive is stupendously beautiful so it was no hardship.
 I bought four dozen of these luscious rolls.  Two dozen for Thanksgiving, two for Christmas. 
 I also can NEVER resist a cookie.  These small town mom and pop bakeries still use recipes like Grandma used. The cookies are big and soft and not sweet.  The peanut butter and sugar cookies were still so hot and soft she had to use a spatula to pick them up and box them. I was a little disappointed that the molasses were day old.  But she gave me one for the road on the house.
 I was also a little disappointed in the place itself.  They painted! It's spruced up!  They're getting new counters and it just won't look so...old and...small town-y and...grandma-y.   But the baked goods will stay the same. I was assured.

The pumpkin mood has hit me. So I made these chocolate chip pumpkin blondies.  I don't know who first discovered chocolate and pumpkin are friends, but in my opinion they are best friends. What a great combination!  These are cakey, not gooey, not overly pumpkiny.
 The recipe called for sprinkling the top with chocolate chips and I added pumpkin seeds (pepitas) to that.  A very good idea.

If you are so inclined, I got this recipe from The View From Great Island and Sue adapted it from Martha.  Sue is beginning to bring us one bowl wonders and this is definitely one of them.  Use one bowl. Dump the stuff in.  Go ahead.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Blondies

 Mix well together the wet ingredients:

1 cup (two sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (NOT pie mix, use straight pumpkin)

Add the dry ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamom
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. allspice

Fold in:
2 cups chocolate chips  (reserve about 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top of batter)

 Preheat oven to 350F

Spray a 9x13 baking pan (I used a 10 inch square) and if you want, line with parchment paper cut longer than the sides so when they are done and cooled you can lift them right out of the pan.  I ALWAYS do this.  So easy.

Turn the batter into the pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips (and pepitas if you want) and bake for about 30 minutes till slightly puffed and not wet or wobbly in the center. If you do the toothpick test it will have moist crumbs but not wet batter clinging to it.

Cool before cutting or lifting out of the pan.  Makes about a dozen, depending if you are a big or small cutter.  I am a big cutter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hello From the Gillespies

Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

I almost hate to ask this, but, do you send a Christmas letter? Some people really believe in them and expect people to believe what they say.  And some people are just determined to put a good face forward.  There’s nothing bad about that but it could come back and bite you.
That’s what happened to Angela Gillespie.  She had had it.  She sent a Christmas letter to 100 people every December first and this year was going to be no different.  Except she didn’t feel perky and she didn’t feel like putting her good face forward.  She felt like her husband was growing more and more distant.  He was spending way, way too much time on the internet researching his family history.  The four children had lives that just wouldn’t launch and the three adult children were coming home to live.
So, this time, to get things off her chest a little, Angela decided to vent and wrote the truth.  The whole truth.  About everyone in the family and she said exactly what she thought of all of them.  And it felt kind of good to get it out. But she had no intention of sending it.
A medical emergency took her away from the computer.  Later, her husband thought he would do a nice thing and he hit “send” (without reading it…I mean, who read them at all anymore? Not him!)   And off it went.  And Angela was launched out into the world.   Talk about stress!
This isn’t heavy reading.  It’s a good story about families and how they change and how we have to change with them.  It’s about coping with those adult children who come back home to lick their wounds, recoup and try again.
This story is set in the Australian Outback on a sheep station so I learned a lot, too.  It’s almost time, if you write one of these annual letters yourself, to read this before you get too far into it.  It’s going to put you in the mood or cure you forever.