7/22/17

A Better Day

After the kitchen calamity of the day before, I was bound to have a better day, right? It's only fair. And I'm happy to report that yesterday found me bathed in success. My first task was to churn the watermelon sorbet. Once I had the ice cream maker set up, I poured in the liquid sorbet and churned away.


After about 20 minutes, it was frozen enough to put it into a container and then into the freezer. It takes a couple of hours in the freezer before it's ready to eat. We had some of this for dessert last night. So yummy.


While that was churning, I opened up all the jars of watermelon jelly, added the remainder of the pectin from an open box, and then boiled it some more. The images and instructions I posted yesterday were very helpful in determining when this would be done. When I did the spoon test, it was first dripping from the spoon in one drop. Eventually it separated into two drops and then ran together and slipped from the spoon more like honey.


I was feeling pretty confident at that point, and so I tried the saucer test. It was supposed to wrinkle rather than run. Look carefully around the perimeter of my finger, and you can see the wrinkle. (Try not to be dazzled by my lovely manicure. Difficult, I know.)


When I did this test on the jelly the day before, it was nothing like this. Since I'm not a jelly aficionado, I wasn't really sure what I was looking for. Now, I was certain it was ready to go back in the jar. Not surprisingly, my yield was 5 1/2 half pints this time around, as opposed to the 8 half pints from the previous day. I didn't care about the yield. I just wanted jelly, rather than syrup. And take a look at that. This is the jar I refrigerated to cool it faster.


When I checked the other jars this morning, they too were well set. I was a little worried I'd overshot the mark by adding more pectin. We had some on our toast this morning, though, and it was perfectly spreadable.

With that in mind, I'm sharing the link to this recipe for Watermelon Jelly from Marisa McClellan. I think in the future, I would add only the original amount of 5 tablespoons of powdered pectin, rather than adding more. However, I would cook it long enough and be certain it passed the tests for doneness before putting it into jars. Be sure to read her entire blog post because there are some helpful hints about it. Finally, there was some talk on Facebook about watermelon (indeed, all melon) not being high enough in acid to be safe for water bath canning. I checked in with Marisa McClellan about this, and she said she'd tested the pH when she developed the recipe. The half cup of bottled lemon juice puts it into the "safe" category, so no worries. Just follow safe canning procedures, as always.

So, finally, I was able to make my way into the sewing room. While I was there, I caught up on the 8th clue for the Welcome Home Small Quilt Mystery. I was to make eight square in a square blocks. These finish at 3 1/2 inches.


When I had those finished, I turned around to find I was no longer alone in the sewing room.


It was my drug-seeking cat, looking for his fix of nip. After snorting up the little bit I gave him in a bowl, he was gone again.


For some reason, I developed an ear worm just then. If you grew up in the 60's you might recognize these lyrics:


Humans, huh, yeah
What are they good for
Absolutely nothing
Humans, huh, yeah
What are they good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, why'all


Yeah, it's good to be valued for oneself rather than the services one can provide. I wonder what that feels like.

So anyway...I continued on with the 9th clue for the mystery quilt, which was to add a border around the outside.



And now I'm caught up on my challenges. After that, I took a look at my white board list of to-do's. They're broken up into sections. Try not to notice my spelling errors.

So, yes, "Challengs" are all caught up.



It seems as if the Welcome Home quilt ought to be coming to a close soon. It's a small quilt, and it's moving into lap sized territory if it gets much larger. I believe the Marvelous Mini's will be finished after 12 weeks, but I could be wrong about that. If I'm right, I should have all the blocks finished before we leave on our trip. 

As for the rest of my list, I have three quilts that are sandwiched, but not quilted. August's OMG goal is going to be finishing up the Bee Lovely quilt. The other two will probably sit until next spring when we return home.


The Solstice Challenge is the only one on the "tops to finish" list, but there might be more before we leave. Those are going to be kitted up and carted along. If I have time to sew while we're traveling, I'll work on those.


This one is finished, but not sandwiched. It's unlikely anything will happen on that until spring. Usually, I sandwich several quilts at once. Right now, this is the only one.


As for the embroidery projects, I take these in a rotation. Hocuspocusville has just one more block to finish, and I expect to kit that up for finishing the quilt while we're traveling. Wine Country has farther to go. I'm hoping to finish Mumm's the Word before the end of July, and Summer Holiday is closing in on a finish as well. The Bag Ladies...well, those are a monthly given until the last one is finished in December.


And, finally, my WIP's. These are not far enough along to expect to finish any of them before we leave. I'll keep plugging away at them either a block, section, or row at a time for as long as I can, and then they'll be on hold until we return home next spring.


With that in mind, I'm back to the top of the list and the next Chicken Buffet block, Hawaiian Chicken.


I'm hoping to get some work done on that today, but our power is off. No idea why. It's kind of weird on a sunny and not-too-hot July day. I'd blame air-conditioning, but it's not that hot. We kind of expect this during a winter storm, but no clue what's going on today. I just know we're not alone. I'm typing this blog post on my laptop, which the Resident Engineer has helpfully hooked up to a generator. The power has been off for several hours already, so I'm hoping it won't be much longer.

That was all I did in the sewing room yesterday, and then I went outside to take some pictures. I noticed that the red sunflower had bloomed.


It's smaller yellow cousin was nearly fully opened as well.


Also the echinacea are putting on quite a show. I was thrilled when these survived the winter, and it's even more thrilling to see them blooming now.


As I walked alongside the herb garden, I noticed that last year's parsley had seeded itself and is now growing along the edge of the sidewalk. It's growing in enough abundance that I'm fully stocked with parsley for any cooking I want to do the rest of the season.


Finally, the wisteria is looking very pretty above the front door porch. It was late to blooming this year because it was in the shade of one of the trees that needed planting. Now that it's getting some sunshine, it's blooming in profusion.


So, I still had some time left before I needed to leave for my haircut, and I stitched around the third corner of Wheel Estate.


When I got home, I finished the last of it, and now Wheel Estate is in the finished column. Yay!


Here's how it looks from the back.


This was my 2016 Rainbow Scrap quilt. I didn't start one for 2017, but I'll be linking up today to show off my finish. Also, this is my OMG quilt for July, and so I'll be linking up at the finishing party when it's time.

This morning, I had some time to do some hand-quilting on Mumm's the Word. I've nearly turned the fourth corner on the outer borders.


I just need to stitch to the left and then down to the finish line indicated below, and then this...my oldest UFO...will be ready for binding. I really can't wait to get this into the finished category.


And since the power is still off...it's about the only thing I can do for now. Sadly, I can't run the vacuum. As I'm sure you can imagine, this is a tragedy. It might be worth calling in the National Guard just for that. So, powerless to do any housework, there's nothing but hand quilting on the agenda for a while.

7/21/17

Kitchen Calamity

Okay, well, jumping back to yesterday, you might already know that I was chomping at the bit to get at some watermelon jelly that caught my canning eye. All was going along just fine. Since I had no idea how much watermelon it would take to accumulate 6 cups of pureed juice, I purchased one of the standard-sized seedless melons. I'm guessing it weight about 15 lbs. And you know, even seedless melons have seeds. The recipe said to remove the seeds before pureeing. I figured I could puree away and just strain the resulting juice to remove any seeds. It had the added benefit of straining out any large chunks of melon that escaped my food processor blade of doom. Eventually, I had six cups of nicely pureed watermelon.


Less than half of the watermelon was used in this process, and so I decided to puree another two cups to make some sorbet. We can take that along on our camping trip next week. It's sitting in the refrigerator ready for the ice cream freezer as I'm writing this. Watermelon sorbet is delicious. In the early days of blogging, I wrote a post about making sorbets from all different kinds of fruit. (I've linked to it back there.) When you have dinner guests, it's kind of fun to make several different flavors and give them scoops of each. Their flavors are intense, and your guests can attempt to guess which flavor they are eating. Mango is especially confusing. They get that it's something tropical, but they're hard pressed to figure out what it is.

So, continuing on with the calamity in the kitchen, I chopped up the remainder of the melon (oh yes, there was more) to eat for breakfast for the next six months. Then, I decided to throw all the rinds out onto the compost pile and so I loaded them into my largest bowl. While I was at it, I was going to toss a jar of daikon radish pickles. They weren't as good as the first time I made them, and so nobody was eating them. They're tasty, but very, very stinky. As I took the expensive Weck jar out of the refrigerator, I bumped the door with my hand and dropped it right in front of the refrigerator, breaking the jar. Then I panicked at the realization that all of that stinky pickle juice was just about to run under the fridge. I grabbed the first towel I saw and threw it on the whole mess to prevent Armakitchengeddon. (Phew. Saved.) Nevertheless, I still had a sticky mess full of glass shards, and I was dealing with it all the while I was cooking the jelly.

During that process, I threw the now wet and very stinky towels into the washer and got that running. Absentmindedly, I noticed that the washer was starting to whine on its spin cycle. "I must inform the Resident Engineer of this development," I told myself.  Unbeknownst to me, the washer was issuing its warning that a belt was burning up. It smelled as if something was burning, and I wondered how it could possibly be the jelly when I was stirring it frequently.

About that time, the washer signaled it was finished. When I looked inside I found the towels were still all sudsy with soap. I tried to run a rinse cycle, and that was when I figured out the washer belt had burned up. It filled the tub (conveniently), and then refused to agitate, spin, or (and this is the most important part) drain the tub of water. I might add that the Resident Engineer was in town during all of this, and so he was to be of no help until he returned home and managed to fix the washer all in a single afternoon. (Yay!)

Now, I have a concern about all of this, and here it is: Possibly I've seen too many Terminator movies, but I am growing suspicious of washing machines. I've heard of several abroad that have also joined the Global Washing Machine Resistance Movement. (GWMRM) In fact, you might know that Samsung had to issue a voluntary recall of its top-loaders recently because of this problem:

The drums in these washers may lose balance, triggering excessive vibrations, resulting in the top separating from the washer. This can occur when a high-speed spin cycle is used for bedding, water-resistant or bulky items and presents an injury risk to consumers.
And a picture is worth a thousand words.



So, anyway, I'm just sayin' keep a close eye on your washing machine. And I'm not so sure about the dryers either. Call the authorities if you must.

Heroically, if I do say so myself (and I do), I managed to finish the jelly while simultaneously mopping the floor three times to get the mess cleaned up.


Coincidentally, a nice diversionary package arrived from my friend Karen, who sent me some stuff from her mother's collection. There was cat fabric, embroidery hoops, yarn, embroidery floss, needles, crochet hooks...


and this card game, which gave me quite a chuckle.


"Being catty pays off!"


And, hey, I graduated junior high school. "Catty" is practically my middle name! This will be fun for Mike and me while we're traveling in internet-free zones. So thank you, Karen. You are so sweet. She even sorted all the floss by color!

So despite a rather harrowing day in the kitchen, I did manage to get some sewing done. The second corner has been rounded on the Wheel Estate quilt. It's a little more than halfway to the finish line.


Also, this week's Marvelous Monday Mini block is finished now, and I'm officially all caught up on these.


And I need eight more square-in-a-square blocks for the Welcome Home Mystery Quilt. I have the pieces all cut now, and so it should be short work to get them all sewn together today.


As for my jelly, it has not set up. I've been conversing on one of the Facebook canning groups about the jelly, and I'm convinced I need to cook it longer and add a little more pectin. One person in particular seems to know all about this and sent me some helpful images to check for doneness. I tried this "saucer test" using a different explanation. This one describes it better, and I'm fairly certain I misinterpreted mine.



Also, these descriptions of spoon tests:



There are jars in the dishwasher right now, and as soon as they're finished, I'm going to get it boiling again, add just a little more pectin and then, "boil the hell out of it" as my Facebook expert advises. That jelly will set up or else! While I'm doing that, I can get the sorbet into the ice cream freezer. I'm feeling a little hot and cold about these tasks. Ha! (Did you see what I did there?)

Aside from these kitchen tasks, I'm getting a haircut this afternoon. Nevertheless, I'm hoping to get some time in the sewing room.


7/20/17

A Few of My Favorite Things

Yesterday was a kind of utilitarian day. There was grocery shopping and some housework. Just about the time there could be some real sewing, I decided instead to overhaul some of my fabric bins and free up a few to hold all my folders, tour books and maps. The hope was to concentrate the maps and tour books into fewer boxes. That didn't happen, but at least the boxes are plastic instead of cardboard. On our last trip, the cardboard box quickly burst its seams, and we had tour books and maps all over the floor in the back seat. They won't defeat their boxes on our next trip.


Since there isn't much to tell, I'm showing you a few pictures I took off my phone and my camera. First, the flowers. When we met up with the man who bought our truck, we were at a truck stop in Troutdale. (Seems appropriate, doesn't it?) The truck stop was a truck stop like any other...lots of trucks, truckers, and gas pumps. Nevertheless, someone had very lovingly tended to a beautiful rose garden. Here are some of the bloomers.





Also, this one from our yard. It's the one Erik and Mae gave me for Mother's Day a few years back. This is the prettiest hydrangea. The colors in this image are true.


Next, food. My bread-baking efforts have been abandoned temporarily while we attempt to shed the pounds that have accumulated over the past several years. I don't blame the bread...probably the cheesecakes are more to blame. Nevertheless, eating loaves of bread (and I do mean "loaves") is inconsistent with dieting, and so my yeasts, flours, and sourdough starters have been relocated to the freezer for the time being.

We've been getting heads of radicchio in our CSA shares lately, and so yesterday, I decided to make a pizza I tried last year. It gave me a chance to knead some dough, and now I'm feeling a little less shaky from withdrawal than I was a day or two ago. This is a Chanterelle, Radicchio, and Pancetta Pizza.


It's so yummy, and I was very surprised to find chanterelle mushrooms in our grocery store and at the farmer's market over the weekend. They are strictly a wild mushroom, and generally, they are found in the fall in Oregon. It's a testament to our cold wet spring that we are seeing them in July. When I made this last time, chanterelles were not available and so I substituted creminis with good results. Mike is not a fan of the bitter lettuces like radicchio, and so I substituted Italian sausage on his pizza. Both of us were happy. I've linked to the recipe above that image and I use this recipe for Roberta's Pizza Dough for the crust.

There was time for some hand-sewing yesterday. I'm continuing to work away at my hand quilting project, and I've turned one corner of the Wheel Estate quilt. Although I've only turned one corner, I still estimate that I'm about 1/3 of the way around the perimeter...or the outer limits, as I've taken to saying.


Finally, cats. Their new kennels arrived yesterday and Mike has them assembled. We're leaving them in the living room for now with the doors open, trying to make the kitties believe that going inside is a good idea.

Whatever you do, Sadie, do not cross those thresholds. Those are the gates of hell.


Sadie is doing her best demonstration of a cat on a cat quilt.


When a cat sits on a cat quilt, it tends to grow in length.


Here, she's showing how a tiny little cat such as herself can be stretched to cover three quilt blocks...


just prior to dozing off into Snoozeville.


This disgusts Smitty. He takes up guard duty on the catio.


Today I'm going to try my hand at Watermelon Jelly. I saw the recipe online, and it sounded good. We're limited about the jellies and jams we can make here at the Three Cats Ranch since seeds are not allowed. When I saw the watermelon jelly, it sounded pretty good. I have a large seedless watermelon awaiting its demise on the kitchen counter. I'll be pureeing it a little later and cooking it down into jelly. Watermelon sorbet is delicious, and so it seems the jelly ought to be good too. Time will tell, and of course, I'll check back with you tomorrow to report my findings. Definitely, I'm hoping for more sewing time today.