Monday, August 26, 2013

"Useful Hours": Stitching Update

 Submitted by Linda
This past Sunday I had the privilege of visiting the Huntington in San Marino for a visit to the "Useful Hours" exhibit. My companions for this escape from my 'two mile radius' were my mom (center), and my traveling pal, Liz (on the right).
We started our outing at the amazing tea room there, near the rose garden. Their tea is by far my favorite, and didn't disappoint. (Since it's a buffet, we were able to eat 47 of the cucumber sandwiches if we wanted to!) 

We weren't allowed to take any pictures, but the exhibit features needlework and painted textiles from the 19th and 20th centuries, made by girls from ages 9 and up.  It made me remember Mr. Bingley in our beloved Pride and Prejudice: "You all paint tables, and play the piano, and embroider cushions! I never heard of a lady but people say she is accomplished!" 
Aside from seeing such well preserved samples of samplers, and such, I loved the inscription on the sampler from which the title "useful hours" came:
How blest the maid whom circling years improve
Her God the object of her warmest love
Whose useful hours, successive as they glide
The Book, the Needle and the Pen divide.

My mom and I agreed that we no longer need to worry about all the time we spend stitching in the evenings, since they will now be considered "useful hours".  

Here is an update of how we've been spending those hours. Recently, my mom showed me a very old and tattered hankie that had been her mother's (my grandmother). We were discussing how to preserve it, when one of us had the idea to make a little pillow or sachet. My mom did that, and was able to insert the crochet trim from the edging into her tiny pillow.

She did the same thing to some cross stitch projects that she had stashed from my childhood. They were stitched to close to each other, so couldn't be framed. We can't remember who stitched them, her or me, but I think I'm the type that wouldn't have left enough space, so I may be the guilty party. Sadly, sometimes I'm not a 'measure twice' kind of a girl. Anyway, she added some pom pom trim and voila!
I love how cute they look tucked into a basket!
Up until recently, this cross stitched pocket lived in the bottom of my stitching basket. My mom had stitched it on a very oversized denim shirt, and when styles became more fitted and I started feeling dorky wearing the huge shirt to school, I cut off the pocket (because how could I trash that patriotic apple?)
I decided to follow her lead and make a cute pillow for my house. I dug into my stash of old lace, and now I can finally enjoy that apple again!
The exhibit at the Huntington runs through September 2, 2013.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Happy Birthday Banner

Submitted by Linda 
My mom was always a sewer, and she often would make me an outfit or a project when I was young. When I was big enough, I learned how to make bean bags on the sewing machine, usually by sewing seams on the ends of a section of a sock. When I was in the 7th grade, my junior high school offered 'Sewology' where I remember making a really terrible pair of elastic-waist brown corduroy pants. 

My mom and I continued sewing together, my dad was willing to pay for any fabric I wanted, as long as I didn't let projects pile up (apparently he doesn't buy into the philosophy of 'the one who dies with the most fabric wins'). It turns out that his grandma had a giant stash of bargain fabrics in the space under the stairs, which she never used up.

When my kids were young, we would go to my hometown of Eugene, Oregon, for a long visit, and my mom and I would have a  sewing marathon - halloween costumes for the boys, clothes for me, projects, and so on.  Yet, as I have gotten older, I discovered that I don't enjoy the process of sewing as much as I like the end result.

In the Spring 2012, I was at Rosie's quilt shop in La Mesa with my friend Liz, and despite my intentions not to do any sewing projects, I fell in love with the cupcake fabric, and the sprinkles fabric shown below. I decided then and there that I would make a birthday banner.
So, this summer, I determined to "get 'er done", lest a fabric stash start accumulating, ha ha! I started by ironing a fusible interfacing on the back of the fabric to stiffen it a bit.
 I punched the pennants shapes out on my Big Shot, and I'm pleased to say it cut fabric like a champ. Here are my pennants, in an order that I like.
 I also used the Big Shot to cut out the letters. I had ironed on "wonder under" before I cut them, so that they would iron right on. Let me just say, that whoever invented "wonder under" ought to have won the Nobel Peace Prize. That stuff has really upgraded textile arts! Here the letters are laying on the pieces......but something seems to be missing.
 The letters didn't have enough 'pop', so I used my scraps to cut a scalloped circle to put behind the yellow letters. Much better!
 Here is the layout. I like it!
 After I ironed the scallops and letters onto the pennants, I still didn't feel like the letters popped enough, so I gently peeled back my interfacing on the back of the pennant, and I used green embroidery floss and stitched a stem stitch around each letter.  Much better.  
Now, even though I'm a mother of boys, and my house is more red than pink, I just love this (sort of girly) banner, and am looking forward to using it for many birthdays to come!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Map Card

Submitted by Linda
Lately on Pinterest, I've been seeing ideas using maps - Christmas ornaments, or cute projects where people track where they've been in some clever way. I had been waiting for an opportunity to use a map on a card, so after our Carolinas adventure, I made this card to send to Liz as a 'thank you' for inviting me to travel with her. It was super easy to put together, and it was fun to punch out the three cities we visited.  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Butternut Squash Tart

Submitted by Linda
This recipe is one of my favorite dishes that Michelle makes, sometimes for my birthday or when I visit her in La Quinta. My boys are also really into this dish, even though it is vegetarian. I recently made another quiche/tart, and their comments were, "It's good, but not as bomb as the butternut squash tart". 

I'm a bit embarrassed of my pictures, as my crust was made by Pillsbury, and Chef Michelle makes her own, to flaky perfection. Maybe when I grow up I can master homemade pie dough. In the meantime, if it's 'bomb', why mess with it?
 I have found that it's nice to bake up the squash a day or two before, so that's it's quicker to assemble the tart.

Winter Squash Tart from The Greens Cookbook
Serving Size: 4 (main dish)

1 winter squash or pumpkin - about 1 1/2 pounds
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 recipe tart dough (or 1 Pillsbury Pie Crust)
2 medium leeks (about 4-5 oz, mostly white parts)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 eggs
1/3 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream (Michelle and I use all milk, no cream)
1/2 cup milk
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. finely chopped thyme leaves
1 tsp. finely chopped parsley
(Michelle also adds a generous dash of cayenne or red pepper flakes).

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and pulp, brush the surface with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet, and bake until the skin is puckered and the squash is soft, about an hour. Remove it from the oven, let it cool enough to handle easily, then scoop out the flesh.  Pass the flesh through a food mill (I use my immersion blender) to smooth out the texture. There should be about 1 1/2 cups. Freeze any extra. 

While the squash is baking, prepare the tart dough. Partially bake it and set it aside. Trim the leeks, quarter them lengthwise, slice them into 1/4 inch squares or slices, and wash them well.  Melt the butter in a skillet, add the leeks, and cook over medium-high heat until they are tender, 7 - 10 minutes. Add a little water after the first 3-4 minutes to help with the cooking and keep them from burning.  Season with salt. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the creme fraiche or cream, milk and squash. Stir in the leeks, grated cheese, and herbs. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a few scrapings of nutmeg (here's where we add the dash of cayenne). Set the oven heat at 375F. Pour the batter into the tart shell and bake in the center of the oven until it is firm and flecked with spots of brown from the melted cheese, about 45-50 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven, let it rest for 5 - 10 minutes and serve it on a platter. Makes a 9 or 10 inch tart.