Wednesday, November 27, 2013

the day is nigh upon us . . .

I love the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this time of year!  Sweet and savory spices fill the air (in the RV, at least), the weather is crisp, and children's laughter bubbles, full of anticipation and expectation . . . and the simple realization that I have *so* much to be thankful for.  
Much like my ancestors who crossed over the Atlantic on the Mayflower and celebrated the first Thanksgiving!

I had fun on Saturday at our guild workshop.  We had such a fun group at our table!  Here we are with our various stages of projects . . .
Mine will be a doll baby blanket for Ellie's baby doll.  I am making one in pink strips for June's doll.

We've had family come in yesterday and more to come in today.  Yesterday, Ellie and I baked up several different types of biscotti and gingersnaps for snacks for our out-of-town guests (who are staying with Jocelyn) . . . 
She's very carefully measuring out some candied ginger for me.
She was particularly fascinated with the Kitchen Aid mixer ... don't tell Joc, but I let her change the speed of the mixer, under careful supervision!

I got June's dress finished and delivered . . .
I can't wait to see her in it tomorrow!  This was such a sweet and easy pattern. I want to make lots of dresses using this pattern! And I *finally* used the automatic button hole foot on my machine for this dress. Good GRAVY!!  It was SOOOOO stinking easy!  I want to make buttonholes in *every* thing now!

I've not made but twelve (yes ... so few I can count the actual stitches) in my cornucopia since my last post. 
Ah well . . . the pumpkin is fine where it is for now, and I'll have the cornucopia finished for next year! Christmas, though, is a definite must.  

I'm eager for tonight--our church family is gathering and sharing a pizza dinner before heading out with food baskets to deliver.  In the meantime, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and the prep work for the stuffing is on the agenda for today.  I got out my Thanksgiving runner, too.  
Even though we're eating on picnic tables over at the pavilion, I can still dress it up!!

That being said, I'd better get a move on . . . wishing for each of you--whether your celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow or not--a day of many things you can be thankful for!


Friday, November 22, 2013

guildy remininces . . .

Last night was guild night.  I love guild nights!  We have such an uber-talented group of women in our guild -- it's really quite remarkable!  Our speaker last night was a local talent Elaine, who blogs at Messygoat.  She does fabulous things with scraps, really fabulous.  But before I share those with you, there's a couple of fun things by others I want to share first . . . 

Check out this amazing sweater . . .
Isn't this awesome??!  You know how I love buttons!  I may definitely give this a try on my own.  By the way, this was a Cracker Barrel find.

And then there's this piece . . .
My dear friend Kathy and her husband were discussing possible themes for non-judged exhibits at our bi-annual show.  They laughingly toyed with the idea of "Quilts made by the husbands of guild members." Kathy didn't think any more about it until her husband, Norm, brought her the above as a birthday present. He made it while he was out of town!  Kathy reports he had a little help from the hotel staff.  She also said it was her favorite birthday present ever!  My favorite is the back shot . . .
I loved the knots!  Norm was pretty proud of those knots, too.  Way to go, there, Norm!!

So, now on to Elaine and her presentation.  She shared lots of darling projects that's she's made with scraps:

My favorite are the fish and the owl pincushions.  I love the owl with the "angry" eyes!!  (Movie reference, anyone?!?)  She free-handed the fish, but there's a tutorial for the owls on EfermeraInk!

She also makes BIG things . . . lovely, wild, beautiful quilts . . .
I dubbed the bottom one "backgammon quilt" right away!  I'm taking her workshop tomorrow ... Yay! We're working on a scrappy variation of Bonnie Hunter's String-X.  Can't wait!

In the meantime, I'm going to turn this:
Into a dress.  And, I'm getting closer on my cornucopia:
Whoohoo!  It might just be ready to hang before Thursday!

And, look what I received in the mail yesterday . . .
Two pounds of candied ginger straight from the Amish market!  My mom sent it to me ... so now I can get started on more gingersnaps and almond ginger biscotti! Loverly!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

guest blogging biscotti . . .

If you have a chance, and if you're interested in the recipe for my Holiday Biscotti:
Head on over to Sew Crafty Angel and check out my guest post on her page!  This biscotti really stands on its own as a cookie and tucked prettily into a cellophane bag makes a great holiday gift for lots of occasions...if you can stand to give it away!  Ha!

I tried Almond Ginger Biscotti this past weekend . . . I'll share that one next, if anyone's interested!
This recipe is a little more like traditional biscotti cookie, very crunchy, but has lovely bits of candied ginger in it along with slivered almonds.  Very definitely a 'dunking' biscotti!


Guest Post - Holiday Biscotti

From my guest post at Sew Crafty Angel:

As we gear up for the holidays and all they entail -- parties, gift-swapping, entertaining, etc. -- I thought it might be fun to share one of my favorite recipes, Holiday Biscotti,  that's a sure bet for all kinds of gifting (teachers, swaps, hostess, et al.) and looks so pretty on a buffet or dessert table . . . not to mention it *tastes* fabulous!  So much so, you may want to keep a few tucked back for yourself!
Biscotti is essentially a twice-baked cookie with Italian origins.  It's substantial, crunchy and rather perfect for dunking in your morning or afternoon coffee or tea. It's a relatively easy cookie with a basic dough, and lots of different add-ins give it a wide range of appeal. Today's recipe pairs pistachios and dried cranberries for a festive red and green cookie.

Since my husband and I are fulltime RVers, with *very* limited counter space, I really enjoy my weekly opportunities to cook in my daughter's big kitchen, which means I have some darling kitchen help, Miss Ellie!
After spending a bit of time studying the recipe for herself, Ellie says we're ready to get our ingredients together.

For baking Holiday Biscotti, you'll need to gather the following ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup pistachios (roasted and unsalted), coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli's chips)
Red and green sugar crystals, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.  
Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. 
Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.  It's very important not to over bake at this stage and to let it cool *completely*.
Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick slices. I slice mine from end-to-end, keeping the smaller pieces as treats for littles (or for myself, if I'm baking with gift-giving in mind).

Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet.  Isn't that pretty??!
Return to the oven and bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely. 
At this point, Ellie reminded me that if there are leftover pistachios, this is a great time to finish them off.
Once your biscotti has cooled, stir the white chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until it melts (or whatever your preferred method is for melting chocolate). Dip the tip (about 1/4 to 1/3) of the biscotti into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off the excess chocolate. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet for the chocolate to set. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals. You can refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes, but I generally find this step is unnecessary. 
If I have additional white chocolate left after I've dipped all the cookies, I drizzle it over the backs of the biscotti.  It adds a pretty touch. 
The biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to 4 days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in resealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.  Tucked in a cellophane bag topped off with a pretty ribbon and a coffee sampler or tucked in a coffee mug, and you've got a tasty gift!
Or the perfect treat for your own afternoon respite during the holiday craziness! Enjoy!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

stitching crazy hexie quilting . . .

Off and on over the past several years, this beautiful hexi project from Gipsy Quilt has popped in and out of blogs and up on Pinterest.  It recently resurfaced as a link in my StitchMAP e-mail group and this time I looked at it through eyes that have crazy quilted *and* fallen head-over-heals in love with hexagons.  A wacky-wonderful  combo!  
Magnifique, right?! Anyway, I contacted Gipsy and she sent me a pdf of the process and technique. Yay!!

Ahem.  While I'm *far* away from doing any actual stitching, my brain is rolling with ideas.  So it was time to pull out my quilting journal.  (No surprise it's purple, right?!)
The first thing I did was brainstorm ideas for block themes.  I got my sisters in on the job, too.  We have an ongoing four-way text conversation going, so that was easy and they were all very helpful!
Next thing was to decide how many blocks I wanted to and how I wanted to put them together.
Then I had to decide a size and make a template in card stock.
And then it was time for the fun stuff!!  I started with, well, block one!  Since this is a journal quilt, I figure the center block should start at the beginning!
Now . . . only 36 more templates/themes to go!
Luckily, I'm thinking this will be a long term project, spanning a couple of years. Like most of my projects. Hah! Linking this up to Sarah Did It! and her HeLP for Hexie-aholics linky party!  :)

In the meantime, I'm playing around on my crayon-tinted cornucopia.  I love how this is turning out!
The variegated brown floss on the cornucopia really gives it depth, I think.  I'll probably work on this some more this afternoon . . . as some Slow Sunday Stitching over at Kathy's Quilts!

Ah, and don't forget!  I'll be guest posting the recipe for Holiday Biscotti on Sew Crafty Angel next week -- the 19th to be specific.  I hope to see you there!


Friday, November 15, 2013

cream cheese mints . . .

Gracious!  The week's nearly gotten away from me and I've yet to post that recipe for cream cheese mints. Well then, without further ado, here 'tis . . .
These melt-in-your-mouth mints are a simple, classic candy that make any table look elegant! Here's the ingredient list:

1 4-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon of peppermint oil (not extract)
5-10 drops of food coloring (more or less, depending on desired color)
1 to 1-1/2 pounds of confectioner's sugar
granulated or decorating sugar for rolling

Now for the process:

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, peppermint oil and food coloring. Use mixer and beat until well blended and food coloring is evenly distributed. Add confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  At some point, the mix will become too hard to use mixer and it'll be time to 'dig in' and mix by hand. Continue to add confectioner's sugar and knead by hand until mix is smooth and doesn't stick to your hands anymore. Be careful not to add so much sugar that it becomes stiff and dry. To this end, to keep the bulk of the candy pliable while I work with it, I keep a just damp paper towel over the mix.

~Take a break and rest your hands and get comfortable.  It's only just begun! The next part of the process is a marvelous opportunity have something mindless to do with your hands while you watch a movie or something.~

I have a rubber flexible candy mold that I use -- and have had terrific success with. I actually have several different shapes (it comes in *tons*) . . . leaves, daisies, hearts, etc., but this rose shape is the one I get the most use out of.
Of course, you can also make them without the molds. I have a friend who rolls them into balls and then uses a fork to flatten them, with the tines criss-crossing. The rubber mold is my preferred method and I've purchased mine from a local cake decorating shop for under $2 a mold. They're also available online -- do a search for 'rubber candy mold' and you'll get lots of options!

Roll the candy mix into approximately 1" balls. Oh, and for the record, I don't really recommend that you make these over your laptop keyboard! (Whoops...don't tell my hubby!)

The diameter is approximately 1" because it differs depending on the mold I'm using.  For the rose, it's actually a little smaller.  (Hint:  I don't make all my 1" balls ahead of time -- they get too dry and don't pick up the decorating sugar nicely.)

Next, roll the ball in the decorating sugar, to cover the entire top half of the ball. The red sugar on the pink candy was a little much ... normally I would have used a pink or an opalescent, but I was out.  So red it was.
Now we're going to press the ball, sugar side down, into the rubber mold:
Press it in completely and smooth out the top (a couple of thumb strokes should take care of this nicely).
Now it's a simple matter of popping the candy out of the mold.
Voila! Repeat this process about a hundred billion times. Seriously. No, not really! But this recipe does make about ten dozen, so be prepared to repeat the process about 119 times. Buy a handful of the same mold and you've got a great activity for a group of bridesmaids to help with while watching a romantic comedy, right?!  
I place my finished flowers on wax paper and allow to sit overnight (no more than twelve hours). After that, keep refrigerated in an air tight container. If you're making these up well in advance of a party/reception, they can be nicely frozen.
Typically if I'm layering the candies in a Tupperware container, I'll layer them with a sheet of wax paper to keep them from sticking to each other.

And that's all there is to it!  Please feel free to leave questions and I'll answer them "lick"ety-split!

****Edited to add:****
Chocolate mints are easy enough to make. Just sub out 1/4 cup of cocoa powder for and equal amount of confectioner's sugar. A couple of drops of red will make the "cocoa" color a little more intense. Use the mint or, if you prefer, use a couple of drops of almond oil or chocolate oil for a twist on the flavor! Everything else is the same.