Wednesday, July 1, 2015

MAKING PLANS

Our 50th anniversary celebration is coming up this month.  We're looking forward to having a GREAT time with our kids and grandkids.  The two oldest grandkids and our #1 son are not able to come because of work commitments.  However, we had a phone call yesterday and learned that Jim's next older sister is coming!  That makes 12 guests who will be staying with us for the weekend of July 17 to July 19.  Some are coming earlier, some are staying later, but that weekend everyone will be here.

We have a photographer coming on that Saturday afternoon and that evening we will have a catered dinner here at home.  Thanks to the Dear One, I don't have to prepare all that.

For the other meals, I will prepare menus well ahead of time and do as much pre-preparation as possible: baking cakes, buying cookies, stocking up on cold cereal and granola for simple breakfasts, and making a huge pot of chilli and a gallon of potato salad and a gallon of marinated bean salad.  I have wonderful, delicious recipes for these three items and they all are better if made ahead of time.

We are borrowing two travel trailers and some other mattresses to accommodate everyone. The garage will become a bedroom, as well as Jim's study.

As things became more and more complicated, Jim suggested: Maybe you and I should just book into a motel and let everyone else run things here!  I said, Maybe we should just book motel rooms for everyone of the guests and have a quiet time here by ourselves.  Just joking, of course!

But I'm letting you know that you won't be hearing from me during July.  There's enough going on to keep me occupied full time.  Especially, now that his sister is coming I need to put together one more lap quilt, so she's not left out.  Fortunately I have all the blocks made for the 70's looking "Tradewinds."  Right now I am going to start sewing those blocks together, and hope to have the quilt finished by the end of this week.

HAPPY CANADA DAY! everyone!
Grammilou/Louise

Saturday, June 27, 2015

HAMBURGERS, HAMBURGERS, HAMBURGERS!

I've always loved hamburgers.  When I was in high school I had a little noon hour job at a restaurant across the street from the school.  There was a room downstairs at the restaurant where hamburgers, hot dogs, milkshakes and pop were sold to high school kids during the noon hour.  My aunt was in charge of that room and she hired two or three of us high school girls to help with the cooking and at the cash register.  The pay: a free lunch, limited to two items.  So I had hamburgs for lunch almost every day during high school.  I still loved them, in spite of having eaten so many.

After we were married Saturday evenings became our traditional "Hamburger Night."  We still do hamburgers on Saturdays, although the Dear One has switched to Extra Lean Turkey burgers.

In 1987 DD#1 and I made a trip to Grand Rapids to visit my mom, who was in the hospital after surgery for colon cancer.  When I arrived in Niagara Falls DD said she didn't feel like cooking supper, would I like to go out for hamburgers?  Yes, Of course!  Then we drove to Michigan and stopped on the way for a quick lunch: hamburgers.  DD and I stayed in mom's house and went to the hospital every day for a visit.  Lunchtimes we went next door to a Burger King and had a quick lunch: hamburgers.  We did that for a week.

Then it was time for her to go home to Ontario.  We stopped at a plaza on the 401 for lunch, looked at each other and said, "I'll have a CHICKEN burger."  We felt we could not down another hamburger.

I flew home to B.C. in time for supper.  Jim had prepared hamburgers, knowing they were a favourite of mine.  I looked at it and said, "I'm sorry!  I can't eat that!"  He was flabbergasted, "But you love hamburgers!"  Well, he was so sweet to prepare something that he knows I love, that I did eat hamburger for supper that night.

Fast forward to 2011, and DS#1 and I are in Chile, South America for an adventure hiking/camping trip.  We went into a small café in Punta Arenas for a supper and each ordered a hamburger.  We they came DS threw up his hands and laughed: this is how they make hamburgers there:

They were enormous, but---they were flat!  So there was basically the same amount of hamburg in the patty, but it was punched down all flat, and the bun was the same diameter, but not tall.  Well, that was a discovery: they were much easier to handle, to get our mouths around than the traditional puffy patty and bun.  It's also easier to load up the burger with condiments--lots of space to spread onions, ketchup, pickles, etc.

So when I got home I started making big, flat hamburgers and buns.  I'm just a little limited because I grill our hamburgers on a small Proctor/Silex indoor griddle.

This will be my hamburger tonight.  You can see it barely fits, but when it begins to cook it will shrink enough so that two of them can be grilled at once.

I really recommend this little grill.  It's how most of our meat is cooked.  Hamburgers, chicken breast, pork all cook in less than 5 minutes.  The fat runs off into the little drawer beneath the grill.  Clean up is easy--just rub with grill with a damp cloth.  The accumulated crusts (not much) will come right off.

You can buy formed hamburger patties, but they don't taste as good as mine (IMHO).  I buy a family pack of lean ground beef (plus sometimes some lean ground pork as well), and add: some quick oats, some chili powder, a little seasoned salt, some coarse ground pepper, some garlic powder, a little nutmeg, lots of oregano and an egg or two to "stick it all together."

The mixture is then weighed--4 3/8 ounce portions, put into a hamburg press and placed on waxed paper on cookie trays for freezing.  The patties go into a plastic bag for storage in the freezer until needed.

Yesterday I made 16 patties.  That will do for weeks, unless I serve them when the kids and grandkids are visiting in July.  Probably will do that.

But yesterday when I was making patties I ran out of waxed paper, so I substituted parchment paper.  WELL, that was totally better at detaching from the frozen patty than waxed paper!  I will stick with parchment paper from now on!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

DRAMATIC SKIES

Our area has been in drought conditions this June.  But, of late, we've had just a bit of moisture.  Just enough to build up storm clouds when the sun draws that moisture back up.

Late one day last week the sky grew ominously dark.  The clouds formed in the western sky and quickly came toward us.

It looked as if we'd get a real heavy shower.








Ahead of the rain comes the wind.  The trees tremble and bow down.  Dust flies.  Anything left lying around heads toward Saskatchewan.





Alas!  Threatening clouds and wind were about the extent of it.  A few fat drops of rain fell and the storm moved eastward.

The sun came out again and shone on the retreating clouds, creating a beautiful double rainbow.  This was a complete double rainbow reaching on either end to the horizon.









The setting sun painted the remaining clouds a lurid orange.












Such intense colours!


















A bit later, peace returns to the
skies.  The night will be calm.















Friday, June 19, 2015

SEDUCED!

I thought, now that I'd reached my quilting goal for this spring season, that I would give more time to postponed household chores.  But it seems that I cannot resist the siren call of one more quilt.

A woman I know stopped by this week with some old knitting, quilting and macramé (Remember macramé?) patterns and magazines.  I passed a few of them on to S., who also quilts and knits, who shared them with her sister.  That afternoon I spent an enjoyable time looking through the quilting patterns and magazines.

In a copy of QUILTMAKER magazine for November/December '94 I saw a delightful pattern.  It's called "Picket Fence" and has just one pattern piece.  Made with darks and lights, just three per quarter block, it's supremely easy to cut and sew.

I cut that pattern out of the magazine before passing it along to S., went to my batik drawer and started cutting out 3" strips.  Couldn't leave the thing alone!

Here's the first 6 blocks up on my design wall, not sewed together yet.  Can you see the stars that come together from the lighter fabrics?


I can already imagine another version with the "stars" in blue and the other strips in reds and whites.  Or maybe stars in whites and the other strips in pastel florals?  That's the whole trouble with being a quilter.  You just get drawn in, time and again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

AT VERY LONG LAST

Our house was built in 1979 and we bought the place in 1997.  We rented it out for two years and then, when Jim had retired from the ministry, we moved in on September 1, 1999.

From the time it had been built until we moved in nothing had been done to it, no repainting, no repairs, nothing.  The was a leak in the roof which the former owner "fixed" by putting an empty ice cream bucket on top on the kitchen cabinets to catch the drips.  And, just in case that got too full, he bored a little hole in the top under the rim and ran a drinking straw from the hole to a second ice cream bucket.

I always wished for a house of my own that I could paint, renovate and redesign.  Well, I got my wish!

One of the first things we had to do was reroof.  That was finished in the summer of 2000.  We've had some leaks since then, but managed to fix them.  Instead of a tar/gravel roof we now have a "torched on" roof.  The leak happened around the sky light in the kitchen where the roofer neglected to run the material up onto the side of the sky light.  The carpenter who helps us now fixed that.

I did a significant amount of the renovations here, including building a wall against the foundation in Jim's study downstairs, and building a closet in that room.  Then we had John Turner, a very clever fellow, do some carpentry for us.  He took out the wall between two bedrooms to create our computer/sewing room, an 11' x 27' room just off the dining area.  He put in a door from that room to back hall, and those changes created a great space for us to work and for me to sew.  He also installed all new windows on the upper level, redid the balcony that needed new plywood flooring and some attention paid to the railings.  Together he and I installed Ducan decking on the floor of the balcony.  There were several other projects that John and I accomplished in the house.  He also helped us build the #1 and #2 greenhouses.  Then he moved away to B.C.  Too bad for us!

In 2002 we had another carpenter, whose name I won't mention, because I found he wasn't clued in to plumb and level, renovate the two bathrooms for us.  We had everything stripped out of both bathrooms and all new fixtures installed.

In the downstairs bathroom we removed the old sink from the vanity and installed a one-piece counter and sink of cultured marble.  I took the doors off the vanity and removed the drawers, stripped the wooden front and painted the pressed board side.  I stripped the doors.

At that point the whole project fell in to the "neglected" category.  I put the doors, partially stripped into the open cupboard under the counter top/sink.  There they remained.

Because the kids and grandkids are coming for a visit in July I felt some pressure to finish up some of these projects and to clean up some neglected drawers and closets.

This afternoon I finally, at very long last, got around to finishing the cupboard doors.  I finished the stripping (with Circa 1850), scraped and sanded, wiped with mineral spirits, dried and sanded some more.  Finally I brushed on some Danish Oil Treatment in a "Golden Oak."  OH BOY!!!  Do they look nice!  I feel so happy that that's finally finished.  They just have to be reinstalled.  Maybe I'll have Rick, our current carpenter, reinstall them.  He's very good at doors! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A FINISH, A GOAL AND A NEAT IDEA


The Pinwheels quilt was finished this weekend.  Not my usual colours, but I really like it.  I "meander" quilted it on my Janome Horizon, free motion.  I enjoy doing that.  You can get into a real "groove" with the machine stitching away at a steady pace while you move the quilt in swoops and swirls.  But this was a little big to enjoy wholeheartedly.  There were sections that were hard to reach, and some of the seams were hard to stitch over.

Ordinarily I would quilt it while it was still in two halves and then sew the halves together.  But that takes forethought and this quilting was an afterthought.  I was too anxious to get the whole top sewed together.  So I paid for that with a much harder job of machine quilting.  Hope next time I plan ahead better.

That brings to 11 the number of quilts finished since the beginning of February, so I've reached the goal of finishing them before the end of June.  That means I can start on the quilts I want to finish before October for our bed in Arizona.  One top is basically complete, the other one has only four blocks of 49 finished.  A long way to go!

Because the Pinwheels quilt measures 65" x 90" there was a long strip of binding.  Keeping all that contained can be a hassle, but I had an idea that worked really well.


I rolled the binding up in a spiral, fixing the first round with a large paper clip.  I slipped the spiral under the back leg of the see-through sewing table on the Janome, and took the end around to the needle.  This picture was taken without the quilt, as that would have blocked the view of the binding.  As I sewed the binding on I was able to pull out each bit as needed.  The rest of the binding rotated around the leg, and everything was neat and controlled.  Worked like a charm!

Friday, June 12, 2015

MACHINE QUILTING


Most of the time I like to machine quilt with a simple stitch in the ditch or a quarter inch outline of blocks or some feature on the quilt.  But I really enjoy meander quilting.  That's what I chose for this pinwheel quilt, but it's quite a big quilt to manage on a DSM.    About 1/2 hour or 45 minutes of maneuvering this around on the machine at one time is enough.  So I take a break and do something else.

Tuesday I ran out of bobbin thread, so I put this quilt on hold.  I cut and sewed the rest of the blocks needed for a Tradewinds quilt in fall colours.  That was a package of 24 already cut 2 1/2" strips in browns, oranges, yellows.  Those blocks go together very quickly and I think they'll be easy to sew together as the only point matching happens at the very corners of the blocks.

The Tradewinds quilt was scheduled to be the final one in the almost dozen I wanted to finish before summer.  Early this week I had a very nice surprise.  I had counted wrong, and had one more quilt finished than I realized!  So the Tradewinds is an "extra" and I don't necessarily have to finish it this month.

There are lots of other things needing attention: weeds in the garden, some painting and varnishing, preparing for our family celebration of our anniversary, scheduled for the middle of July.  An interesting summer!