Cooking up some memories

Today I did a bit of Christmas cooking for a dinner that we are hosting tomorrow night. I started with a carrot cake……

….followed by three candies….and that is where the memories flooded in.

The first was making Peanut Brittle using a recipe that my Mother-In-Law (Esther) gave to me many years ago…..

Esther was a good cook, and she LOVED for things to be easy and I really appreciated that. This candy is made in the microwave and is wonderful, although I often burn at least one of the two batches that I make. But, today I got them both just right!!!

Her other Christmas specialty were Millionaires, using caramels and pecans and covered in milk chocolate….YUMMY!!….

Esther turned 94 this week and, unfortunately, is struggling with dementia. When I spoke with her today and mentioned the Peanut Brittle, she brightened and said that she bet it would be good!!

The second memory arrived when I was making Double Divinity….one of my Mother’s favorite Christmas goodies. And this candy is not made the easy way. It has two cooked sugar solutions that are poured over beaten egg whites. She had a love/hate relationship with it as it would sometimes fail for no apparent reason, including whether or not it was humid outside!!!

My Divinity experience today was mostly successful, although I burned the second sugar/water solution, not once but…..TWICE….

…..That is NOT the right color!!! But this is the way that it is supposed to look…

I will let it sit tonight and cut it into squares tomorrow.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon cooking and remembering my Mom and Mother-In-Law, although watching “The Great British Baking Show” may have put a bit too much pressure on me!!!!

One batch of cookies in the morning and I am ready to go!!!

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I love a good challenge…..

Every year our quilt guild does two challenges with one being due at the December meeting which was this past Tuesday. My long-time method for these challenges is to start out with tons and tons of ideas, slowly winnow them down over the 3 or 4 months that I have to do the challenge, and then finally settle on an idea and get to work on the Friday before the Tuesday meeting and normally finish it with minutes to spare. My friend Sheila calls this the “Frances Method”!!! This challenge was no different.

The rules were to make a quilt, of any size, that featured a Silhouette in black or white. The challenge was to make the background be the exciting part of the quilt.

Now, I LOVE a good sunset and immediately started thinking about several photos that we had taken in Australia and India…..

Then I found this photo…..

This is my husband, Michael, sailing in Canyon Lake in Lubbock, Texas. Lubbock is at the base of the Texas Panhandle and is known for it’s wind, which made owning this Banshee racing boat a LOT of fun, but it is not known for it’s large bodies of water. This small, man-made lake was filled with treated sewer water!!! You were not allowed to swim but could ski or sail.

Obviously there is not a sunset anywhere in this photo, but I loved the idea of using the silhouette and the idea was born.

First step was to draw a basic design and I googled how to paint a sunset to get my starting point…..

I then covered the pattern with a super lightweight fusible interfacing and started adding fabrics…..

Most of the fabrics came from my scrap bin of pieces that were too small to sub-cut into usable sizes…..

I cut each piece in a wavy pattern…..

….and added it to the background, trying to overlap them slightly…..

I really liked the bit of yellow that shows thru in the pink and decided to mirror that “break through” in the blue…..

After I finished with the water, I carefully ironed all of the pieces to the fusible interfacing and then went back in and glued down the pieces that were overlapping and not touching the interfacing…..

I decided that it needed a few more highlights on the ocean waves and originally planned to use fabric snippets, but after cutting a few out, I decided that paint would be easier. I also added an aura around the sun so that it would stand out more…..

I always try to do something new with each challenge and this time I wanted to add tulle over the top and then do the quilting over the tulle. We had seen a bunch of quilts done this way at Houston and it looked like an easier way to handle raw edge applique. After I pinned it in place, I decided that it needed some stitching to hold it in place….

Then I basted it and started quilting!! The problem with the tulle is that you can’t easily rip out stitching so I tried to make every stitch count. I did have to rip out a small amount and it was HARD to take out the stitches without catching the tulle in the seam ripper. Most of it was done from the back but there were a few stubborn stitches that I had to do from the front. It was nerve-wracking!!

I did change to a smaller needle and used Bobbin Thread in the back and I think that helped some with the quilting.

I normally use a facing on my landscape quilts but was concerned that the thickness of all of the layers (backing, batting, interfacing, overlaid fabric, and tulle) would make it hard to turn to the back. Instead I planned to make a binding where the colors shifted as it moved around the piece. Unfortunately, because I had done this quilt using the “Frances Method”, I was completely out of time and didn’t want to play with doing the binding. So, a good old plain binding was attached!! In the long run, I think that the binding is a nice frame around the quilt……

I called this “Dreaming of Sunsets” and I am very pleased with how it turned out. The jury is still out about the use of tulle which is concerning because that was how I was planning to finish my Henna Girl portrait so I need to do some thinking now!! I didn’t use the finest quality of tulle and I think that was part of the problem. I will definitely look for “wedding quality” the next time.

So I can mark that challenge off of my list and now get back to the portrait….

It's the Little Things

There have been two things that have made me happy on this Monday……

Seeing the cable that is being laid in my neighborhood to bring wired internet and TV service!!! No more DSL or U-Verse!!

Having these pins delivered to my front door. I bought them specifically to use on my design wall and they are PERFECT. The “comfort” heads make them easier to push and the size of the head makes them easier to find when I drop them!!!

As they say…..

The Stockings were hung…..

When our first child (Brian) was born back in 1985, and my daughter (Jenny) followed in 1987, I was very early into my quilting career. Even so, I knew that I wanted to make quilted stockings for our entire family.

At the time, we were living in Canberra, Australia while my husband finished his PhD and Post-Doctoral fellowship, so Aussie animals seemed the perfect way to go. I used patterns from a book by Margaret Rolfe….

Michael and I were very much into the birds in our neighborhood so a Kookaburra and Sulfur Crested Cockatoo were perfect for us, while the Koala and Kangaroo were great for the kids…..

These four stockings hung proudly over the years and were filled with many fun goodies.

In 2010, Amber was added to our family and another stocking was needed. I tried to think about what she might like and immediately thought of a kitty….one that looks a lot like her cat Wheatley…….

So….with the Jenny’s marriage to Kevin earlier this year, it was time for another stocking. I kept trying to think of something to put on his stocking and finally contacted my daughter to ask her advice……she said an “X-box Controller”!!! Works for me!!!!

Now I can say….the stockings were hung by the chimney with care……

……bring on the holiday season!!!

Sleeping under the pineapple!!

Now that I have decorated for Christmas, I am finally being able to enjoy sleeping under my scrap pineapple quilt.

Many of you remember the LONG saga of making this quilt and then, after it was finished, I wasn’t super happy with it.

However, now that I added new pillow shams and 3 pillow covers, I am much happier with how it looks…..

And it is SOOOO warm!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving….the Arnold way!!

Our family has always been a bit weird when it comes to holidays and Thanksgiving is no exception

Our son, Brian and his wife Amber spent the morning running in the Peachtree Half-Marathon in Atlanta. Brian did the half…..

….while Amber ran in the 5k. After they finished…..

….they ate at their favorite Korean Restaurant and spent the day recovering!! We celebrated Thanksgiving with them last Sunday.

Jenny and Kevin arrived for brunch, starting off with traditional Mimosas……

….and a family selfie…..

After eating our brunch, we made the traditional trip to the Tree Farm and picked out our 2 trees. After Michael and Kevin practiced with the small tree……

…it was time to tackle the 14 foot tree. We normally put the tree in the stand and then carry it into the house. Kevin asked the obvious question….why don’t we carry it into the house and THEN put it into the stand…..DUH!!!!

They carried it into the house (with Jenny helping by taking selfies)…..

And, in about 5 minutes, the tree was up and secure!!!…..

Michael said a big”THANK YOU” to Kev for his help!!!

After the kids left to go visit Kevin’s family, I headed to my studio for about 2 hours and then proceeded to strip the house of all decorations…..

Tomorrow I will decorate for the upcoming holidays!!

Thanksgiving dinner consisted of Cheese Dip, Salsa, Guacamole and Tostitos….

I hope that your Thanksgiving was equally fun and traditional!!!!

One side note here…… if you have a large tree and are looking for a good solid tree stand, I can highly recommend the Krinner Tree Genie…..

It is a bit pricey, but it is super easy to use and completely stable….a win-win!!

Give that little girl a hand…..

…..and an arm for that matter!!

Today, I had a few hours in the studio and was able to get the other arm, hand and henna tattoo on my girl…….

I had mentioned in the last post that I was uncertain whether I was going to use real beads or applique them in fabric and several people told me that I should use real beads. So, today I pulled out a box of beads and found this beaded trim that I had bought somewhere…..

I clipped off a few of these bead sets and strung them together to give myself a idea of what it might look like……

Right now I am thinking that this is the way I will go, but I am not completely sold on it. Part of me thinks that they need to be a bit bigger…..we will see!!

Unfortunately, I may not have a lot of time over the next week to work on her, but am looking forward to the next steps. The things that I still have to decide are….

  • What color to make her pants and socks
  • What background do I want to use (I am leaning toward the vegies that were around her)
  • How big do I want it to be (I hope to enter it in some shows and want to make sure that it meets the minimum size).
  • And the real biggie…..how am I going to quilt it!!!!