...Aaaand It's Banned Books Week! Time for a giveaway!

Yep, today officially starts Banned Books Week.

If you recall from this post back in August, Tanesha of CraftyGardenMom podcast and I are co-hosting the Banned Books Week quilt challenge and giveaway!

I'm pre-posting this blog post right before skipping town for a work event, so I'll be keeping it short and announcing my giveaway on this post and then sometime mid-week (after I'm home again) I'll show my own BBW project which will be hanging in my local public library during Banned Books Week.

Anyone who completes a challenge fabric project for Banned Books Week and posts their picture of it in the BBW Flickr group at this link will be eligible to win in either Tanesha or my giveaways. We'll each be drawing from the same pool of entrants so yes, indeed, it is possible to win twice!

I will be giving away (drum roll please...)

Two gift certificates at $15 each for Powells.com.

(That's two winners, each getting $15 a piece.)

The gift certificates will be emailed to you and you can use them at the Powell's website.

What's Powell's? Only one of the world's best bookstores!

The brick n' mortar is in Portland, Oregon. I had the opportunity to visit there years ago while in Portland for work. It's a pretty amazing place.

The website, although not quite as great as being able to walk through shelves of books smelling like...well...books (best smell in the world!), is pretty dang cool too.

And it just seemed fitting to encourage people to buy more books to celebrate Banned Books Week.

So post your photos to Flickr, and if you talk about your project on your blog, leave the link to your blog post in the description of the photo in Flickr. (Be sure to label your photos for 2014 since we're using the same group as last year.)

The drawing will close on Sunday, September 28.

Can't wait to see what you've come up with!

Just a quick reminder...Banned Books Week

Don't forget--Sunday starts Banned Books Week!

I've already got my blog post written and scheduled to go live at one minute past midnight on Sunday, September 21st, announcing my giveaway. Woo!

Sorry that I couldn't quite pull off a podcast episode this week--things got a bit hectic again. I leave town bright and early tomorrow morning for a work trip and by Friday afternoon, I'll be off the grid until I'm traveling home again Monday. I won't be able to see tweets, texts, or emails (o my) while I'm gone, which is sad. But I'll look forward to catching up with everyone when I get home.

Have a great weekend, everyone. There's still time to do a BBW project if you've been waffling about getting involved. Check out the Flickr group for inspiration!

 

Weekend Progress

Sorry about completely blowing off my Fight the Funk Friday post. I was fighting the funk in many other ways! Thursday through Saturday were a mite busy in these parts and I just wasn't on my computer much. 

I actually touched my sewing machine for awhile on Sunday afternoon. I could've spent more time sewing this weekend but my BBW project is one of those that just needs time. As I'm working on one step, my mind is brewing possibilities for the next step. I'm pleased with where it's at but I needed another brief pause before I make final decisions about the last part I need to do. No pics until final reveal, though--the individual parts don't make much sense without the whole. And the backstory. So wait until next Sunday!

Meanwhile, I made pasta.

I've been anxious to work on whole wheat pasta. I've tried eating whole wheat pasta a few times (dried, boxed, from a grocery store) and just couldn't get into it. Not so much a flavor thing as a texture thing. Too chewy or something. It just didn't jazz me enough to bother. 

But when I decided I wanted to learn how to make pasta myself, my primary goal was to make whole wheat pasta to see if I liked it any better than the boxed stuff.

And oh, I do.

This was definitely a success. I'll be making a lot more.

 

And, subsequently...dinner.

Whole wheat pasta with a quick sauce made of diced onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, diced roasted red pepper, Italian seasoning, leftover rosemary garlic chicken (Saturday night's dinner that's going to be a Craftsy class review as soon as I have a few minutes to really pull it together), and fresh shredded Parmesan. 

Very, very tasty. And pretty dang healthy, all in. Absent the Parmesan. (There's not as much pasta on that plate as it looks--I'd spread it out bowl fashion and put the sauce in the middle.)

So, of course, we have to figure out dessert.  

Yes, Virginia, there IS chocolate pasta. 

I know it may sound odd. When I bought the book Artisan Pasta and flipped it open to have my very first peek at the inside, it fell open to the chocolate pasta recipe. "How very weird," I thought, intrigued and a bit horrified at the same time. But it had to be tried. 

Mind you, this chocolate pasta isn't sweetened at all; you just add some unsweetened Dutch Process cocoa and a dash of cinnamon to your pasta flour. It's just about the prettiest pasta I've ever seen.

Look at that, all creamy brown ribbons. Gorgeous.

 

My first experiment for dessert tonight: I boiled the pasta (then drained and cooled it) and melted some Nutella with a dash of Canola oil to make it a little more of a syrup. Then I sliced up some strawberries into the pasta, drizzled the Nutella over the top, added a spoonful of Cool Whip Lite (had to save calories somewhere!) and sprinkled just a few chopped hazelnuts over the top.

I was shooting for a good balance of bitter, tart, sweet, and crunchy--and I did achieve that, at least--it wasn't too bad, but I don't think it let the chocolate pasta really shine. I'm intrigued by some ideas I saw online for using it Mexican-inspired preparations. After all, cocoa is an ingredient in molé so why not? This begs more experimentation. I've appointed fellow-twilter-foodie @HQSuz as my research assistant on this one.

 

On a day filled with pasta, it was a darn good thing I still managed to get in my canal walk despite threatening skies. No rain, though. I took my good camera along to play with some new filters I'd bought for it. No really exciting pictures, although you can see things are still pretty lush and green around here. While I walked I was pondering some hand-dyes to capture all those lovely variations on green. I'm starting to see some reds and yellows develop, though--just a couple more weeks and these pictures will look very different!

And, for those of you in his fan club, I'll leave you with a picture of a very happy mid-walk dog.



Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

  • That I didn't appreciate my molars enough while I had 'em.
  • That I probably wouldn't have ever made quite as much homemade pasta several weeks in a row if it hadn't turned out to be one of the few things I can eat comfortably.
  • How every cloud has a silver lining. I guess.
  • That you would think specialists who do root canals would want to get patients in sooner than about 10 days after calling to make the appointment.
  • That once again I'm having major dental work done right before going out of town for a work event.
  • How that's just getting old.
  • How whiny I've gotten lately. So I guess it's time to just suck up and deal.
  • How I'm excited to be moving forward on my Banned Books Week project.
  • How I get to play with something I've owned for at least a couple of years now but haven't tried using before.
  • How the instructions on the bottle are definitely less than sufficient.
  • How, while it's fun to play, it's a little less fun to have to guess how to play.
  • That I'd better spend some serious time in my quilt studio or I'll never get the BBW challenge done by BBW.
  • How that would just be embarrassing.
  • That I went to guild this week, for the first time since June.
  • How much I've missed my guild.
  • How good it is to be back in the routine.
  • How the herd of deer in the back yard should really stop taunting my doggies. (There's about five to seven of them, mostly teenagers like this guy.)
  • That's just mean.
  • How my dogs wouldn't know what to do with them if they caught them anyway.
  • How that really doesn't matter to my dogs.

So I have gotten a couple of things done...

(Quick note: Craftsy is having a sale from Sept 9-15 with some of it's best-selling classes discounted up to 50% off. Here's the link: Save up to 50% off on Sewing, Quilting & Knitting classes. You might want to check it out! From, The Enabler. Using this link helps support this blog and podcast--thank you!)

The big news is...

I'm done making purple scarves! 

Woot woot woot!

75. Count 'em. 75 purple scarves.

I actually probably only need something like 65 to cover this event, but the number tends to keep waffling a bit so I needed a little cushion. And whatever is left over will come to good use for other purposes in our organization.

Meanwhile, I'm not dyeing anything purple again for awhile. Mostly because I ran out of Grape 801 (Prochem). The last few scarves were, ahem, a bit less saturated a purple, shall we say. But hey, that all just adds to the uniqueness of a handmade-with-love item, right?

The other thing I got done was a gift for my friend. My nickname for her is "Crunchy Dirty Gurrl" (long story having mostly to do with the dye class we took together in Lancaster last spring), so I used resist to write her nickname at the top of an apron and ice-dyed it. But when I went to post the picture in this post, I realized--for the very first time as I looked at the picture--I'd misspelled a word. And not the one I'd MEANT to misspell. No, that one I misspelled perfectly correctly, thank you very much. Oi. As I said to her in my apology email, just goes to show the kind of summer I had. 

Dang it. 

ice-dyed apron

ice-dyed apron

I think we'll try to pull out a bleach pen. Or I'll make her version 2. I wasn't keen on the results of the resist anyway, so maybe this isn't such a bad thing.

Here's a bad picture of the bottom of it, offending misspellings cut off. You actually can't see the colors that well as it was taken at night in another friend's living room so it's darker and more yellow than it is in real life. I used fuschia, turquoise, and lemon yellow dye powders so it's a very pretty blend. But still, it proves I did actually finish something, even if I finished it all wrong.

Sadly, that gets me all caught up in finishes. A picture and a half to represent over 6 weeks of productivity. I toss the gauntlet. Beat that, slackers. 

 

Scrapitude 2015: Scrap-in-a-Box--Cutting Instructions

Charlotte is still working on getting her blog set up, so I'm posting cutting instructions for Scrapitude 2015: Scrap-in-a-Box here. We'll transfer everything over to her blog once it's ready to go!

The Specs

Finished size: 58" to 74" including borders.

Finished block size: 10"

  • Instructions will be given for both “traditional” cutting (using your normal rulers) as well as instructions if you choose to use the Easy Angle ruler for those of you who may own it.
  • You’ll be sewing some diagonals. You may want to check out the Clearly Perfect Angles tool from New Leaf Stitches. I love mine.

Fabric and Cutting Requirements

(Abbreviations: WOF = Width of Fabric or selvedge to selvedge; HST = Half-Square Triangles)

From assorted medium to dark scraps:

Just a few of my scraps that have been put to use.

Just a few of my scraps that have been put to use.

  • (18) 2 1/2" squares
  • (82) 1 1/2" squares
  • (23) 1 7/8" squares
  • (96) 2 7/8" squares, cut on the diagonal. OR (192) 2 1/2" HST using the Easy Angle Ruler
  • (41) 4 7/8" squares, cut on the diagonal. OR (82) 4 1/2" HST using the Easy Angle Ruler
  • (6) different strips at 1 1/2" by WOF
  • (7) 5 1/4" squares
  • (8) 3 1/4" squares

From background fabric:

(Charlotte recommends white, off-white, or very pale color tone-on-tone, preferably all the same fabric but could be scrappy if all the same color. If you're a fan of print backgrounds, just be careful--too busy a background and you'll lose the design on this one.)

I 'm a huge fan of a nice, crisp, white background on a scrap quilt. My white background is scrappy, but all the same white.

I 'm a huge fan of a nice, crisp, white background on a scrap quilt. My white background is scrappy, but all the same white.

  • (96) 2 7/8" squares, cut on the diagonal. OR (192) 2 1/2" HST using with the Easy Angle Ruler
  • (96) 1 7/8" squares, cut on the diagonal. OR (192) 1 1/2" HST using the Easy Angle Ruler
  • (6) strips at 1 1/2" by WOF

Blender Fabric:

(Charlotte recommends medium value blender/tone-on-tone fabric, preferably all the same fabric, but like the background fabric this could be scrappy as long as it's all the same color and intensity. Again, too much variation here and you'll lose the design.)

  • (96) 2 1/2" squares (Approximately six 2 1/2" strips will yield 96 squares.)

Sashing, Borders, and Binding

You'll eventually need approximately 3 yards plus 1/2 yard for contrasting border. However, you may want to hold off choosing this until you see the blocks. Plus, the sashing is kinda special so don't get ahead of yourself here!

Okay--get sorting and cutting! You've got until January 13, 2015, to have everything ready to go.

Sandy’s Notes

I have a freaking boatload of 2 ½” and 5” squares in my stash. So after I’d set aside the 2 ½” squares I needed, I then cut a bunch more down to make my 1 ½” squares. I also got heartless and cut down a bunch of 5” squares for both my 2 7/8” and 4 7/8” squares. I know some of you may think, “Cutting a 5” square down to 2 7/8”? Isn’t that a huge waste of fabric?” Well, sure. But as far as I’m concerned, it was better than (1) taking the time to cut individual scrap pieces into squares, or (2) cutting more strips for the squares and ending up with leftover squares at the end thereby increasing my stash rather than decreasing it. Plus it’s worth the “real estate” those stinkin’ squares are taking up in my scrap bin. The more ways I can use them up and move them out, the better!

It took me awhile to choose a blender fabric. I finally settled on a medium tone-on-tone blue that’s been in my stash for a long, long time. I like the print but I don’t love it, so I thought it was a good one to cut into smaller pieces and spread throughout a scrap quilt.

Remember what they say about ugly fabrics? "You just haven't cut it small enough." Scrap quilts are a great time to use those less-favored fabs up!

Questions for Charlotte


Not familiar with the Easy Angle Ruler? Check out this YouTube video.

(Transparency statement: Amazon links in this post help support this blog and podcast. Thank you!)

Craftsy Class Review: Homemade Italian Pasta with Giuliano Hazan

So you may recall my recent birthday celebration held at the New York Wine and Culinary Institute in the Finger Lakes of New York State. 

And how I learned how to make pasta.

And how I fell in love with making pasta.

And how my husband bought me a pasta machine, and I've been off and running. (Amazingly, even with all this homemade pasta in the house, I've still managed to lose weight the last couple of weeks. Must be all the calories I'm burning cranking the rollers on the machine.)

Well, finally--as promised awhile back--here's my review of the very tasty and very helpful Craftsy class: Homemade Italian Pasta with Giuliano Hazan. 

My first pasta made at home.

My first pasta made at home.

I. Loved. This. Class.

Giuliano Hazan is the son of the woman who has been credited for bringing Italian food into American (and British) home kitchens, Marcella Hazan. I'm not familiar with Marcella's work as I don't own any of her cookbooks. But I can say that Giuliano is a wonderful teacher in his own right. I found his lessons very easy to follow. In fact, the first couple of times I went through the process of making pasta with my new pasta machine, I did it side by side with him, having the videos running while I was doing the steps. Remarkably easy to follow, in fact, as I didn't have to keep jabbing at my iPad screen with pasta-covered fingertips to go forward or back. Smooth sailing.

The very first time you use a new pasta machine you have to make a batch of "waste dough," so to speak, because sending the dough through the rollers cleans any manufacturing or shipping dirt off the rollers and prepares it for service. This gave me the perfect opportunity to make my first batch of dough using his techniques because I had nothing to lose.

First taste--noodles with butter and poppyseeds--the way Mom made then when I was little.

First taste--noodles with butter and poppyseeds--the way Mom made then when I was little.

Admittedly, though, I didn't see much stuff coming off on the pasta as I rolled it through, so I tossed the earlier bits more likely to have invisible gook and still cooked up the later bits so I could see how everything was going. Since I'm still with us to write this blog post, I must not have ingested anything too suspect. 

I've been playing with different flours, which I will say comes more from the Artisan Pasta cookbook I bought than it does from Giuliano's class. He does talk about flours at the beginning and helped me understand why there were so many different ways to approach making pasta (in short: it's a regional thing) as well as a little more about the different types of flours you might use, but Artisan Pasta goes a bit more in-depth on the subject. I've been going back and forth between using an unbleached white flour and a pasta flour (which has semolina and durum in it). I also bought a whole wheat flour but haven't had a chance to test that one yet--that's next week's batch, I think. Giuliano also talks about making "green pasta" (with spinach mixed into the dough) and explains how to adapt it to "red pasta," (with tomato mixed in), but I haven't tried either of those yet either. Artisan Pasta also has a ton of recipes for flavored pasta doughs that I haven't gotten to yet.

So much pasta, so little time.

Ah, but back to the class. 

My most recent batch of pasta.

My most recent batch of pasta.

Giuliano is very easy to listen to, tells little stories here and there through the class so you get a real sense of how pasta and Italian food is such a part of who he is, and does a great job at filling in "dead air time" (while he's kneading or rolling or whatever) with extra information, substitutions, and great tips and tricks. He took all the concern out of trying to use a pasta machine myself, without a partner, by explaining some extremely easy fixes. Doh. Of course. 

He also explains how pasta is rolled out without machines, and gives information for using electric machines such as the type that attaches to a KitchenAid mixer. Because the electric ones are noisier, though, he mostly uses a hand-crank machine in the videos so as not to interfere with the sound.

Again, I really, thoroughly enjoyed taking this class. I'm looking forward to mixing his techniques with recipes from Artisan Pasta, as well as learning how to adapt the techniques to different ingredients. It's a matter of getting a feel for the proportions needed of liquid to flour depending on the density of the flour you're using, as well as how thick a pasta you need for the shape you're making. So far, I've been keeping it simple, but oh, I can see the possibilities.

Noodles in soup

Noodles in soup

Since I'm also one-tooth-short-of-a-full-mouth these days (and no, that's not a euphemism), I've been finding that pasta is a very easy-to-gum meal. So last night I combined a Parmesan broth recipe from Peter Berley's Building Flavorful Soup class (see my review of that one here), with homemade noodles from this class, threw in some diced tomatoes, crumbled chicken sausage (Wegmans Fire Roasted Tomato & Basil--my all time fave), and some fresh basil from my garden, and yum yum. I almost didn't mind having a sore tooth for a few minutes, there.

I highly, highly recommend this class. Everyone should be making their own pasta, in my opinion.

The Basics

  • 7 lessons ranging from 10 to 25 minutes
  • The class begins with a brief introduction to Giuliano but dives almost immediately into making the dough. The first lesson includes the instructions for making spinach pasta with a mention of how to adapt those instructions for making tomato pasta, and concludes with information about how to use and store the dough.
  • The next lesson covers how to roll out and make basic cut pastas. The rolling technique in this class is where he varied most from what I learned from the chef in the culinary center on my birthday--I've been using Giuliano's technique and it works great, so I'm sticking with it. 
  • Lessons 3 through 6 are how to make a variety of shaped and filled pastas, and each includes a recipe for that particular pasta. I liked that he talks about what kinds of dishes each pasta works best in, and sometimes how they're used traditionally in Italy as well as more modern uses. 
  • The final lesson talks about how to cook and sauce pasta. It may seem straightforward, but I found that lesson gave me, if you'll pardon the pun, food for thought. 

Even if you don't plan on learning to make your own pasta (but why wouldn't you?) I think you could still get something out of this class, just in knowing what the shapes of pasta are and how to use them most effectively, plus a lot of great recipes.

I do have to also mention that Hazan has two other Craftsy classes. I don't own either of these yet but I imagine I can see them ending up in my shopping basket in the not-too-distant future:

Classic Italian Pasta Sauces: Meat & Tomato with Giuliano Hazan

Classic Italian Pasta Sauces: Seafood and Vegetable with Giuliano Hazan

Review complete. Two thumbs up!

(Transparency statement: Using the Craftsy and Amazon links in this post help support this blog and podcast. Thank you!)

Announcing...Scrapitude 2015, or "Scrap-in-a-Box"!

ScrapiBonzaTude--my version of Charlotte's first Scrapitude quilt this past year.

ScrapiBonzaTude--my version of Charlotte's first Scrapitude quilt this past year.

Yes, folks, the time is almost upon us! Charlotte's ready to lead another mystery scrap quilt!

The Schedule

Fabric and cutting instructions will be posted this coming week (Tuesday, 9/6). You'll then have a few months to get yourself ready to go.

The first piecing clue will be posted January 13. There are five clues altogether, and we'll be posting them the second Tuesday of every month from January through May, 2015.*

Wanna play along?

The Size

This time, Charlotte has let us know that the completed quilt will be a "snuggly couch size approximately 58" x 74", including borders." She also describes it as being for confident beginners or intermediate quilters. If you are a beginner, you'll just need to go slow and watch some bias edges. But you should be able to do it. Nothing too off-the-wall! And advanced quilters will enjoy it too, of course.

So, what are you waiting for? Join the fun!

On Palettes

Some people love doing controlled palettes. Charlotte prefers doing full-on scrap in her own quilting, so her instructions are set up that way. I suggest you pay attention to the information she gives for value and suggested fabrics. (It's a gorgeous design and you don't want it to get lost!) Controlled palettes can simply be "controlled" along the same value lines.

See below for a little more about controlled palette versus full-on scrap.

Sharing

We'll still use #Scrapitude on Twitter and the same Flickr group. (Didn't do Scrapitude last year? Go ahead and check out the Flickr group to see what-the-what!)

Asking Questions

My travel schedule is nuts this year. So that my absence doesn't slow things down for those of you working on Scrapitude, I've set up a form for you to use to submit your questions about Scrapitude. Charlotte will get the questions herself and be able to respond to you directly. I'll see the questions and responses and if there's something that may be helpful for everyone to know, I'll post it to my blog whenever I land again.

So please use this form to submit your questions. If the form doesn't work for you, email your questions to me and I'll forward them to Charlotte when I see the email. Please do NOT use Twitter to ask questions--they get lost in the stream too easily.


Never Done a Scrap Quilt?

If you want to brush up on your scrappy knowledge, here's the listing I provided last year of past episodes I've done on scrap quilts.

Some Mistakes I've Made Along the Way

A few things I've learned from having done two biggies in a row now (Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street and Charlotte's Scrapitude), with a few smaller scrap projects in between, and having had a few things go awry on me here and there:

1. Unless you're intentionally going for a low-volume or watercolor effect, be sure your background fabric/s have good contrast with your scrap (main) fabrics. Otherwise you lose the design as your block edges fade into the background fabric.

Some of my scraps for the original Scrapitude

Some of my scraps for the original Scrapitude

2. In the same way, when you're choosing your scraps, it's generally a good idea to avoid any large-scale prints with parts of the print that are too close to the color of the background fabric. When you cut those large-scale prints into pieces, you might lose the sharpness of the edge when a big white flower suddenly lands right up against your white background and makes your block look like someone took a chomp out of the edge.

      In a normal non-mystery quilt, large-scale prints can be planned for places where they'd work well. In a mystery quilt, though, you never know how pieces are ultimately going to be used, so large-scale prints can be very tricky unless the mystery quilt designer tells you where it would be okay to use one. If, however, your large-scale print has good contrast with the background overall, these can be great to use in scrap quilts because cutting it into smaller pieces will give you a huge variety of end results--it'll look like you used five different fabrics where it was only one to start.

3. If you have one really dark fabric, balance it out with other really dark fabrics. If you have one really light fabric, balance it out with other really lights. My difficulty on Easy Street was I was trying for a span of values in my controlled palette and ended up with one really dark green mottled-read-as-solid that just sticks out like a sore thumb on the finished quilt. All I can see when I look at it is this dark green visual hole plopped around the quilt. It was my first scrap quilt, and it was a mystery, so I had no way of guessing the end result. Since then, I've done a couple of other scrap projects where I suddenly realized I had one fabric really standing out in an unpleasant way; but rather than removing that one fabric, I balanced it out with others of similar value, and suddenly it all worked beautifully. So while testing the new Scrapitude, I chose a wide variety of scraps and made sure I had a good mix of values (according to Charlotte's directions, which you'll get in another few days). And it's worked really well.

4. Don't be afraid of full-on scrap! I was. I really struggled with Easy Street and the first Scrapitude. In fact, I was pretty sure after Easy Street I didn't want to do another scrap quilt. Ever. (Or another mystery, for that matter.) But when I let myself do full-on scrap, and let Charlotte keep telling me, "It'll be okay! It'll be okay!" every month at guild, I ended up having a ball and completely loving the end product. I had to fight with myself not to control the way those scraps were coming together in the piecing. I confess to a couple of times picking up two pieces and saying, "Yikes! No way am I letting those two colors near each other!" and swapping one out before piecing the unit. But I only did that once or twice before I convinced myself that would be crazy-making and just released myself to the process. When you see the finished quilt, you never see those two fabrics that maybe don't play nice in the sandbox together. Because they're part of a whole, overall wonderful scrappy design.

That's it...although I may have other tips along the way. But for now--start staring at your scrap stash and thinking, "Yay! It's time for Scrapitude again!"

Please note: The original Scrapitude instructions have now been removed from my blog, as Charlotte is in the process of writing it up as a pattern for eventual sale. You will still find my in-progress and completed posts, none of which contained instructions.

*The second Tuesday of every month is my guild meeting. You'll be getting the clues the same day my guild-mates do!

 

 

 

Fight the Funk Friday

This week was a little more hit and miss. I had some great days with steps and others not-so-great. But the difficulty with counting steps is it doesn't take into account how much I'm on my feet versus sitting in a chair, and for us desk jockeys that's actually a big difference. Even though I didn't get a ton of steps in on my days off (see below), I was on my feet most of those days so it was still a drastic improvement. (FitBit does let you input that kind of thing as activities but I've not been doing that lately.)

Friday, Aug 29: 11,261 steps (45 mins elliptical)

Saturday, Aug 30: 9,111 steps (helping DD finish moving in to her dorm room and walking around campus) 

Sunday, Aug 31: 5,030 steps (part of day in car coming home, getting groceries--then spent afternoon in dye studio so while I was on my feet, I wasn't walking around much) 

Monday, Sept 1: 3,835 steps (gym was closed for Labor Day and annual updates, and it was blisteringly hot out so I wasn't in the mood for a walk--but I was on my feet most of the day and cranking a pasta machine so I did burn some calories!)

Tuesday, Sept 2: 3,351 steps (Had an after-work engagement and not enough time for gym or a walk after work, but I was conscientious about trying to move more through the work day) 

sneakerwaterlogue.jpg

Wednesday, Sept 3: 12,678 steps (60 mins elliptical on a higher elevation so fewer steps overall than I may have gotten otherwise, but burned more calories) 

Thursday, Sept 4: 4,113 steps (I took a walk around the store plaza parking lot just to try to get a few more in--added about 1500 steps that way, so it did help.)

The good news is, even though it wasn't a stellar week steps-wise I showed a 4 lb weight loss this week--woot! That's unusual, but I've basically restarted all my healthy habits again so it's like a first-week-loss. The biggest effort I made this week was actually planning and tracking my meals. It does help to pay attention. Next week we'll be back to normal weight loss rates.

I did break my tooth again yesterday (or, more specifically, the repair fell off again) so now we're looking at more extensive repairs and living off smoothies until I have a full tooth in place again. So we'll see how that effects the scale next week, LOL.

Thinking about It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

  • That it's already September and I'm not entirely sure how that happened.
  • How I'd better use my patio as much as possible while I still can.
image.jpg
  • How I'm writing this while on my patio with my morning coffee.
  • That the dogs really like it when I drink my coffee on the patio. 
  • That I really wish they'd stop eating my ornamental grasses. ("Sammy! Knock that off!") 
  • About my Susan B Anthony mug and how it reminds me that women are pretty cool. 
  • That those flies are still around and still pesky. 
  • How good it feels to finally have all those scarves done. 
  • How I still need to press the dang things. 
  • How that's going to take for-freaking-ever. 
    • So I'd better get my Zen on. 
  • How broken teeth are really just starting to work my very last nerve.
  • How drinking smoothies for the next little while will help a lot in my weight loss goals, though.
    • So there is that.
    • Still n' all...
  • How it's like turning on a lightbulb when I get a project done that I'm not enjoying as much and immediately my brain finally starts percolating with ideas for my next project. 
  • How I can't wait to get cranking on that next project. 
  • That my quilty mojo might be starting to come back. 

 

 

August Craftsy Class Update (oops--just realized it's September!)

Craftsy Logo

Summer's nearly over, and my fall's pretty busy so I'm hoping I can continue to make at least some progress on Craftsy classes. My goal is to whittle my "still to be completed" list to a single digit by Dec 31. Since I'm at the 3/4 mark for the year, I went back to my original post on this last year in December to see where I stood. At that point, I had 24 uncompleted classes. I now have 20. That wouldn't seem like I'd made a lot of progress, except...last December, I had completed 14 classes. This month, I have 33 completed classes. So I've definitely been completing far more than I've been adding. Yippee!

New Completions

(+ 4)

Classes in Progress

(2)

  • Cooking Essentials: All About Chicken with Marge Perry (see "Classes added this month"--and, actually, this one's just about done too. Will probably have it done this coming week.)
  • Designing Modern Quilts with Weeks Ringle. Confessional: I'd actually watched all the lessons in this one a long time ago, when I first bought this class. However, I was sewing at the same time and don't feel I paid close enough attention. So now I'm re-watching the lessons again. Not sure if I'll do any projects based on it, but Il will stay focused and take video notes and such to be sure I've actually learned from the class and haven't just had it on as background entertainment. 

Classes added this month

(+5) (Ahem.)

This one has been in my wishlist for a long time. I picked it up on sale earlier this month:

During a weekend away with my husband, we were once again talking about our mutual desire to be healthier and how we could help one another towards those goals. The fact of the matter is, most of the cooking now falls to me only because of our schedules. My husband enjoys cooking and cooks quite well, but as I work from home that means that during the average week it's just easier for me to do it. The other reality is, we eat a whole lot of chicken. We both like chicken and we like all our usual ways of doing it, but there's always room for improvement and new ideas. Therefore, during a huge Craftsy sale mid-month, I picked up these two additional classes:

And you've hopefully already read my blog post about this one:

And, finally, for my birthday (see my blog post about this too):

Classes To Be Completed

Current count:  20 (+3 from last month...oops; lost a little ground, there.)

Completed Classes (all topics)

Current count: 33 (+4)

(Usual transparency statement: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thanks for supporting this podcast and blog!)

Fight the Funk Friday

Linking up with Ozzypip--You go, Philippa! Way to do a linky!

No great shakes on the exercise front this week.

I blame no less than four birthday celebrations in five days.

Saturday and Sunday were already discussed in a previous blog post. Then my husband took me out for dinner on Tuesday for my actual birthday. Then my husband and I met friends for dinner on Wednesday for my friend's birthday. (I'm exactly 364 days younger than her, which I remind her every year.)

I was on my feet quite a bit Saturday and Sunday, but didn't really rack up a lot of steps. My husband and I went for a very long walk on Monday and I have the mosquito bites to prove it. Tuesday and Wednesday were exercise-free since I was having to bounce for dinner as soon as work was done. And last night, Thursday, I chose to go to my Weight Watchers meeting rather than the gym. Going to those meetings helps me stay focused--I've learned they're pretty critical to my personal success, especially on weeks I haven't done so hot. I use the eTools but I've found doing it online only doesn't work as well for me--far too easy to lose focus. I compare going to WW to going to church: For 45 minutes once a week I'm completely focused on health and I get my jam on again for the rest of the week.

Friday, Aug 22: 8,477 steps (good walk on the canal but not much moving around otherwise during a long work day)

Saturday, Aug 23: 5,225 steps (but several hours on my feet and also working a pasta machine with a hand-crank!)

Sunday, Aug 24: 7,801 steps (groceries, party prep, making pasta with a rolling pin which has to be a good upper body workout, and again, several hours on my feet)

Monday, Aug 25: 10,717 steps (a 3 1/2 mile walk on mostquito-infested roads)

Tuesday, Aug 26: I celebrated my birthday by getting the lowest step count of the week, only walking 2,525 steps. But that's about 1000 more than I would have otherwise--I took a few laps around the backyard every time I took the dogs out.

Wednesday, Aug 27: 4,463 steps--I had a short errand to run before meeting our friends for dinner so I did pick up a few extra steps, anyway.

Thursday, Aug 28: 4,483 steps. Better than I thought I'd be, but still not where it needed to be. But this week is a new week!

My eating wasn't terrible-horrible, although there was some cake that may have been involved. Still, there's bunches of room for improvement. I'm sure learning how to make pasta will fix that. (Umm...well...that's my story and I'm sticking to it, anyway.)

More playing with #Waterlogue app while enjoying my birthday bouquet while it lasts...

More playing with #Waterlogue app while enjoying my birthday bouquet while it lasts...

On the other hand, in terms of "fighting the funk," I did spend a whole lot of time outside this past week, soaking as much sunlight up as possible. I really can feel November's cloud cover looming. And, of course, there was a ton of family and friend time, which is also good for mood improvement in my case, as I'm blessed with great relationships with both family and friends! Although I was also happy for the recovery time of being alone in the house afterwards.

 

This week's Fight the Funk recommendation:

Spend time with a happy dog.

 

 

 

Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

  • That if I have one more birthday celebration (mine or anyone else's) I really won't want to get on the scale again anytime soon.
  • That going out to dinner two days in a row on weekdays also means I miss two consecutive days of exercise.
    • See first bullet point above.
  • That I've seen more family and friends in the last six days than in the last six weeks.
  • That I'm enjoying that, but I'm also looking forward to a quiet weekend.
  • That I won't get that quiet weekend for awhile since we're going to see DD at college this weekend.
  • That I can't wait to see her new living arrangements.
  • That I'm hoping we don't have to buy her anything else for her dorm room.
  • That it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that when I got my new Artisan Pasta book from UPS today, the very first page I flipped to had a recipe for Chocolate Pasta.
  • That I apparently have an unfailing radar for chocolate.
  • That maybe I can convince my husband to like pasta if it's got chocolate involved.
    • As long as it doesn't also involve melty cheese.
    • Because that makes him gag.
  • That the dogs are sticking close because after watching DD's taillights go down the driveway Monday they're terrified all their humans will start disappearing on them.
  • That end-of-summer flies are the most obnoxious kind of flies of all.
  • That three flies can be obnoxious enough to feel like there's 60 in the house.
  • That they keep running into me as I'm walking down the hall because they don't fly out of the way fast enough.
  • How dogs seem to want to eat flies.
  • That the sight of Sammy trying to catch a fly is entertaining.
  • But that I hope I'm out of the room if he ever does catch one and eat it.
    • Hashtag gross.

A Not-So-Random App Review (with Quilty Implications)

This is random, but not entirely off-topic as I can definitely see quilty (and dye-y) implications from this.

The very first experiment.

The very first experiment.

I follow Lyric Kinard's blog, and this morning she posted about an app she'd started playing with, named Waterlogue. I immediately downloaded it and started messing with it myself. 

O. 

My. 

I love this app. 

Mind you, I've got several photo-editing apps and most have some sort of watercolor filter effect but I've never seen any of them work as well as this one. 

I was posting these images to Twitter and a couple of folks checked out the app and have since downloaded it themselves. Unfortunately, we also discovered it's only available for iPhone/iPad, but not Android*. Sorry about that!  

My favorite Happy Sam photo.

My favorite Happy Sam photo.

It has 12 different filters with very different effects--my photos here only include three or four of them. It's fascinating to watch how each filter interprets your original photo. You definitely get a lesson in line and color as each filter breaks your photo down into component parts. 

Other than just good, clean fun, what are the quilty and hand-dye-y applications? Well, gee, let me count the ways. At the simplest, you could print the resulting image onto fabric and thread-sketch or quilt it up for a nice art quilt. You could use the watercolor image as a guide for an applique version: It breaks complicated colors from a photo down into much simpler color splotches (which is a very technical artistic term) that would make it easier to interpret those colors into fabric. You could use the outlines it creates in some filters as a guide to hand-draw the image onto your fabric. For hand-dyeing/painting, the benefits are pretty obvious: It gives you a clear view of what colors appear in the photo that you could easily use as a guide for creating a project. 

(I stole this photo from one that @sewexcitedquilts tweeted this morning of sunrise on a lake. Thanks, Jackie!)

(I stole this photo from one that @sewexcitedquilts tweeted this morning of sunrise on a lake. Thanks, Jackie!)

The app is $2.99. I'd say I've already had about $3.75 worth of fun and I've only had the app for about four hours. When I start using it as a way to create a quilt design? Priceless.

I'll close this blog out with a gallery of the original photos with their filtered counterparts. I've got it set in autoplay to change images every two seconds, but you have controls on the right and left to move forward and back if you want to see something again. If you can't see the gallery in whatever way you're receiving this blog, just go straight to my website.  

*The Waterlogue blog explains that they have no plans to release it on Android. They're a small, independent iOS developer and Android is much harder to program with reliable stability as it's used on such a wide variety of devices. If you want to read the whole blog post, go to their blog.  (You may have to scroll down to find the pertinent post.)

A Little Bit about Birthdays and Food

So yep, a birthday happened here. This week, I turned 49. Age doesn't bother me--I guess I figure I've earned every one of these years or something. Still n' all, it often surprises me to think, "Oh. I'm 49. How did that happen?"

I'd rather have reached 49 than the alternative. Thus, no hiding my age or being coy or cagey here. It is what it is, and I've had a great 49 years. Looking forward to the rest!

(For those of you reading this through feed readers or email, there's a photo gallery that appears here with controls for sliding photos back and forth. You may not see it in feeds and may need to check the website version.)

This year for my birthday, I did a cooking class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center and invited a few family members to join me. There were eight of us: me and my husband, my son and daughter, my nephew, my mother-in-law, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend.  You work in pairs, so I paired with my daughter, my husband was with my mother-in-law, my son and nephew worked together, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend were a pair. I went with eight as that's the number to fully surround one island in the classroom (four stations of two people each at every island). Everyone cooks their own dishes, but then you can share around the island--or even through the classroom--as you may choose. (The gallery shows my family and everyone's dishes--my son and nephew brought in a ringer and a chef-in-training did their plating for them. You can tell.)

I've taken several classes there before and have blogged about them in the past (here's one, and here's one, and here's one with a recipe I learned at a class, and here's another one). My favorite is the Farmer's Market class, so that's the one I chose for my birthday celebration. You start out by meeting at the Farmer's Market in the town where the institute is located, and the chef talks you through the process, lets you know what proteins and pantry items are available at the institute, and then gives you a portion of your registration fee back in cash and sets you loose on the vendors. You make up your meal plan as you go, making use of the chef as consultant as needed. My daughter and I were partners since she's a vegetarian and I was game to go meat-free, and we decided it would be fun to learn how to make pasta. I've looked into doing it in the past, but had never taken the dive. What better time, though, than when surrounded by chefs and culinary students?

DD and my ravioli

DD and my ravioli

And now I'm hooked.

I made the ravioli, and my daughter made the sauce. She riffed off a sauce she sometimes makes at home--also with no recipe. (My daughter has developed my love for free-wheeling cooking. Recipe? We don't need no stinkin' recipe.)

We filled the ravioli with a mixture of risotto, arugula (we wanted spinach but there wasn't any at the market--at this time of year? Really?), and garlic. The sauce has roasted red peppers--and she roasted those peppers too--tomato, onion, garlic, and fresh basil. Then we sprinkled some of the arugula over the top for pretties. Everyone loved it!

I fell in love. Just like making bread from scratch, there's something so wonderfully elemental about creating your own pasta from the egg up. I immediately started dreaming up all sorts of combinations of ravioli fillings and sauces.

The next day, on Sunday, I made homemade ravioli for a pasta salad for our family celebration (me and my father-in-law share a birthday). Without a pasta maker, I was rolling it out by hand with a rolling pin so it wasn't quite as thin, and I wasn't able to make as many ravioli. So, rather than pasta salad as a side dish, I served it as an appetizer. This time the ravioli was filled with ricotta, roasted red peppers bought from a store, fresh grated parmesan, and garlic; I tossed it with grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and more fresh grated parmesan. Even though the pasta was a little more chewy and thick because my rolling technique was a little rough, people still loved it. And I had a blast.

And so, my husband bought me a pasta maker for my birthday--and a drying rack, and a ravioli mold. The shipment should get here tomorrow. Mind you--this isn't self-serving for him. He doesn't actually like pasta, and he hates gooey cheese (so he's not big on cheese-filled anything). He'll eat it if I make it but it's nothing he'd look forward to. So buying me a pasta maker is truly an act of love on his part. And I'll be giving a lot away.

I also ordered the book Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green. It got good reviews; I should get that one later today.

And then, because it was on sale and I'm on fire, I bought a new Craftsy class: Homemade Italian Pasta with Guiliano Hazan.

So...be ready for more pics of pasta to come!

 

 

 

Fight the Funk Friday

Two quick notes before I begin:

1. I've noticed that the Fight the Funk image--and often other pictures--don't show up in Feedly for some reason. They used to, so some glitch happened somewhere. I haven't had time to figure it out yet--so if you want to see the pics, you'll need to click through to the website. Sorry!

2. For those of you who were asking: Princess Doggie (Spencer) has experienced a full recovery from whatever her mysterious malady was. By late last night she was back to her usual freakish self. It's good to have her back, as annoying as she can occasionally be. Freak.

And so, on to my Fitness Friday/Fight the Funk Friday. Be sure to check out ozzypip too! Sandy at Quilt Cabana Corner is on vacation this week, racking up the steps and ready to knock us all down a few pegs on that leaderboard. Looking forward to hearing her report when she's back!

Friday 8/15: Walked the canal with Sammy for 90 minutes. Total 10,455 steps for day.

Saturday 8/16: Planned on walking the canal with Sammy for 30 mins. Ended up walking the canal with DH for 90 minutes instead. I told him he was almost as fun a walking companion as Sam but not as nice to scratch behind the ears. Total 13k steps for day. (Also got groceries in the morning which accounted for nearly 2500 of those steps--we were way behind in our grocery shopping!)

Sunday 8/17: Slept. A lot. Apparently my body needed some recovery time. (2,325 steps--woo.)

Monday 8/18: Gym and elliptical for 45 minutes. Total 11,183 steps for the day.

A very happy walking companion wearing his "oopsie" bag--which remained empty--and my wrist wallet with car keys and ID attached to his collar. He's happier when he's got a job.

A very happy walking companion wearing his "oopsie" bag--which remained empty--and my wrist wallet with car keys and ID attached to his collar. He's happier when he's got a job.

Tuesday 8/19: Beautiful day with lousy weather predicted for the rest of the week, so I opted to do a canal walk with Sammy rather than the gym. I was dragging a bit again, and my shin started cramping up partway through the walk. I completed the entire walk (45 minutes, about 2.5 miles) but slower than usual with a couple of breaks for stretching; total 7,464 for the day.

Wed 8/20: Gym and elliptical for 45 minutes. Total 11,210 steps for the day.

Thur 8/21: I went to my WW meeting--which is during my usual workout time after work, so Thursdays are a little trickier in terms of getting steps in. Total 3,071.

This week, I moved from somewhere in the 30s to ranking #17 on my leaderboard in FitBit. I'd like to be in the single digits but to do that I have to get better at working more steps into the day rather than just when I'm getting to the gym. Still n' all, not too shabby for my first full week back in the game.

This week's #fightthefunk recommendation: Good sleep is key to a good mood. I've often had a cup of chamomile tea at night to try to help me sleep, but to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of the flavor of straight chamomile. Meh. I was much happier when I discovered this wonderful Chamomile Lemon Tea. (The link is for Amazon, but I get this in my local Wegmans grocery store.)

It's not a strong lemon flavor at all--just very nice and mellow and tasty. Although some insomnia nights still require actual sleeping meds, this tea helps me settle down on an average evening, and get in the mood for some zzzs.

A New Craftsy Class that I Helped Make Happen! Woo!

Okay, so I must have been one of thousands who helped make this happen, but still--it just goes to show it's worth it to submit ideas!

Probably around a year ago now, after I'd taken a couple of the cooking classes from Craftsy, I submitted a comment saying that I'd love to see them do classes geared at new cooks: college kids, young adults in their first apartments (or, frankly, anyone who has finally decided to cook for themselves rather than order take-out, but I was mostly thinking about my own kids). Although a lot of their classes are certainly "beginner cook appropriate," I could really see potential for something that starts from scratch--so to speak.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from Craftsy. "Guess what? Remember that comment you submitted? We've just launched a new class just like you'd asked!" (Or words to that effect.)

Even better: It's a teacher that I really enjoy and know without a doubt that my son and nephew (both 20-somethings) would really like too: Brendan McDermott.

So I immediately bought the class myself, as well as sending along the link to every young adult in my contact list. Hey--I just tried to poach an egg for the very first time a couple of weeks ago. I can clearly use a few foundational technique lessons myself!

I feel a little bit like an aunt: I'm not really directly involved in this class's birth, but I'm a close relative!

Without even having watched it yet, I have no reservations about recommending 20 Essential Cooking Techniques with Brendan McDermott. (That being said, I'm going to start watching mine this weekend.) If you want to check out Brendan McDermott as a teacher first, get the free mini-course Complete Knife Skills with Brendan McDermott--my review of that class is here.

By the way, Craftsy does have plenty of free mini-classes--I've taken several. This link goes to a page with all of them listed.

Okay...now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

(Transparency statement: Clicking on links in this post helps support this podcast and blog. Thanks!)

 

Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week I'm thinking...

  • About how tired I am now that I'm exercising regularly again and I'm wondering when all that "extra energy" I normally get from exercising will finally kick in.
  • About how well I'm sleeping, though, for the first time all summer, so that's a bonus.
  • About how I know in another few days things will even out and my body won't be quite in as much shock.
  • About how I still don't have much quilty mojo but that'll come back too.
  • About the fact that DD heads back to school on Monday for her senior year of college.
  • About how much I'll miss her, but I won't miss the stacks of cr*p in the family room. 
  • About how she can't get her car packed fast enough for my taste because somehow the stacks of cr*p in the family room are multiplying frighteningly fast as she moves out of the bedroom and basement and lands in the family room as a transition point before it eventually (and better!) all ends up in the trunk of her car.
Princess doggie doing her best to win my sympathy.

Princess doggie doing her best to win my sympathy.

  • About my princess doggie.
  • How she is clearly not herself, but doesn't have specific enough symptoms to go to the vet.
  • Whether I could call them and say, "Well, she's just not as freakish as she usually is."
  • And... "for her, calm isn't necessarily a good thing."
  • And... "She actually sticks by my side in the back yard. That's just not right." 
  • That my work task list seems to be using fertilizer--it just keeps growing no matter how many tasks I prune off it every day
  • That I turn 49 next week.
  • That I've always preferred "0" years to "9" years because 9s are the end of a decade, 0s are the start of a brand new one.
  • That this birthday next week starts my "sabbatical year," as Frances puts it. 
  • That I may be in for a lot of changes between my 49th birthday and my 50th one, sabbatical year or not.
  • That I really enjoy the #twilters because they make me feel like I'm still in the quilty world even though I haven't touched my machine in nearly a week.
  • That I have a lot of other very random thoughts wandering through my head this afternoon so this should probably just end here before it devolves.

Craftsy Class Review: Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley

Craftsy Logo

 

And now, it's time for my review of Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley.

As summer winds its way down towards fall, I start thinking of chilly nights with the smells of something tasty cooking on the stove. I've been wanting to focus some energies around learning how to build my own soups for awhile. The fact of the matter is, I only have one soup I make regularly that I use a recipe for (Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda--amazing); the rest I make up on my own anyway. But I wanted a few more ideas, better techniques, things that could send me off and running in any number of directions. 

Parmesan broth with toast, a poached egg, shredded Gruyere, and chives. 

Parmesan broth with toast, a poached egg, shredded Gruyere, and chives. 

And so, I bought this class. Peter Berley provides techniques and recipes for several types of broth that can be used as the base for a variety of soups. He starts out pretty simple, with a very basic tomato broth and a Parmesan broth, both of which I was immediately ready to try out myself. It uses Parmesan rinds and since I've gotten in the habit in recent years of buying good Parmesan and grinding it in my food processor, now I know what to do with all those rinds I slice off first!

I made the Parmesan broth and dressed it up exactly the way he suggested in the class--not too bad. I'd never poached an egg before without using my egg cooker--it didn't turn out pretty, but it worked.* And I was surprised that I actually enjoyed a poached egg floating around in a soup! Still n' all, I'll want to do some more doctoring to that one. I can imagine using the Parmesan broth with tortellini, diced tomatoes, and fresh basil, for example, or as a cooking liquid for any sort of pasta or rice. Yum.

I've bought a bunch of tomatoes to try out his method of making tomato broth, but our family plans changed on Sunday so I haven't had a chance to make it yet. I'm hoping to get to that sometime later this week, and turn the broth into tomato rice soup, a family fave.

I'm also looking forward to following his instructions for making chicken broth. It's similar to what I've seen before but has some differences to it, so I'm anxious to try it out. However, that will probably wait until a rainy weekend as it has more kitchen prep time involved.

Peter Berley has a very relaxed delivery. Indeed, sometimes I felt it was a little too relaxed. I've grown accustomed to food instructors who use cooking time as a chance to give more information, some chemistry background to what's happening on the stove or in the oven, suggest substitutions, and so forth. With Peter Berley, there is occasionally "dead air," and it feels a hair awkward at times. Still, he's easy to listen to when he is talking, and I did learn a fair amount more about making broths as bases for soups.

That being said, I do wish there had been something along the lines of the chart that Molly Stevens provides in her Secrets to Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise class (see my review here), to give me more ideas about how to combine different ingredients within flavor profiles. He mentions variations in passing, but having an actual chart in the class materials would've been very helpful so I wouldn't have to keep running back to the different lessons to remind myself of the possibilities.

However, one soup helps keep away vampires and ghosts. So that's a win.

While this wasn't my favorite of the Craftsy cooking classes, I did still learn a lot from it and will be continuing to play around with his recipes and suggestions. The printed materials will stay in my kitchen recipe binder for reference. If you're a fan of soups, I do think this one is worth adding to your queue.

The Basics:

  • 6 lessons, ranging from about 24 minutes to about 37 minutes (absent the first lesson which is his three minute introduction)
  • Lessons cover vegetable and herb broths and soups, Japanese Dashi variations and Asian soups, using shellfish, meat, and poultry in broths, soups, and stews, and pureed soups.
  • Many of the broths he covers are either vegetarian-friendly or could be easily made so. I was specifically watching for this as my daughter's a vegetarian. 
  • He briefly touches on refrigerating or freezing the broths, although he doesn't spend a long time on that. 

So, for Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley, I think I'd give this class one thumbs-up, one thumb in the middle. Again, not my most favoritist of the cooking classes I've taken on Craftsy, but I definitely learned quite a bit and have some good ideas for moving forward. My second thumb would be fully up if there'd been a chart as I'd suggested above, or if Peter Berley had filled some of the dead air with more information about flavor profiles and other ingredients that play well together in soups with certain bases, that kind of thing.

*For instructions on poaching eggs, I did a quick refresh-my-memory check and used Alton Brown's method. Peter Berley doesn't cover that in the class.

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A Finish and a Craftsy Class Review: Thread Art with Lola Jenkins

Online Quilting Classes

Let me just start by saying, I had a ball with this!

The Craftsy class at hand is Thread Art with Lola Jenkins. My project ended up varying greatly from what she did in the class--so what you see here is inspired by, but not an exact replica of, the techniques she teaches in the class.

I'm hoping you'll see what fun I had with this and want to hightail it right over to Craftsy to sign up for her class!

Hawaiian flower, my own photo taken in 2010

Hawaiian flower, my own photo taken in 2010

The foundation of the class project is using a copyright-free image to base your artwork upon. She gives a lot of ideas about where to get your copyright-free images, and provides one in the class materials (The Girl with the Pearl Earring); it was one I do really like and debated doing myself. But I generally don't want to do what I know a bunch of other people are doing, and it wasn't a portrait I had ever wanted hanging in my house. I went back to one of my own photos (taken in Hawaii in 2010)--one I've always intended to translate into fiber in some way or another.

Photoshopped outline of flower

Photoshopped outline of flower

I'm not particularly good at drawing realistic things freehand, so I used PhotoShop to get an outlined version--more or less. There was at least enough outline for me to follow and trace the main parts. 

I stuck to the outline of the flower and each petal, plus the center stamen. I knew I'd be doing later quilting to give it more dimension.

I chose to do it on a white background so that the oranges and yellows of the flower would really show up well. I used one of my PFD fabrics as I had nothing else white in my stash that didn't have any print to it.

Windowpane light box

Windowpane light box

Then I used my trusty built-in lightbox (!) to do the tracing. Someday I'll have neighbors in that currently-empty-lot and and they'll wonder why the crazy lady next door keeps taping things in the window. I should come up with  messages to write on the back of the images I'm tracing. "Call the Mothership." "The Bear Flies at Midnight." "Send brownies." Messing with the neighbors' minds: always a good time.

Lola Jenkins makes several suggestions in the class (for which you're going to need to buy the class to find out!) about other things to do to your design, but none of them were speaking to me for this particular image. I finally landed on what I think was probably my most brilliant idea of the whole process. I pulled out my Hawaiian quilt block book, chose a block design that had a great outside edge to it, and used only that part of the block to create a frame for the project from one of my hand-dyes. Love it. May have to do that more often! I also free-hand drew leaves around the outside of the flower to help balance the entire thing. I drew the leaf I'm most comfortable free-handing. @Nonnie_p pointed out that it looked suspiciously philodendron-esque. Hey, when you find what works, stick with it. 

I knew I'd be able to shade the leaves fairly well--I've done that before. The flower was a bit intimidating, though, with all the ruffley bits. I kept going back over and over again with slightly different colors or adding in a line here or there, and I'm fairly pleased with the way it turned out. 

Dimension in the petals

Dimension in the petals

I debated for awhile what color thread to use in the petals to make the dimension even more obvious. Black would be too heavy. But invisible thread may not be interesting enough. I had finally settled on red thread until I actually sat down to do the stitching...the red wasn't jazzing me as I pooled it on the petals to test it out. Then I realized--wait! I had all those Superior "Try Me" special variegated threads I'd been picking up lately. Bingo! One in orange, yellow, and red variegation. FTW.

I had a lot more fun stitching the petals than I thought I would--I was a bit nervous about this part, as I knew it could go from helpful-dimension to way-wrong-angles in the blink of an eye. But, again, I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. And that thread really is pretty. I also did some thread painting in the black center, and you can nearly see a corner of the stamen. I'd used a yellow thread to do circles in the stamen area, but the circles are so dinky and I could see what I was doing so poorly that it ended up being more of a scribbly-fill. But it worked, so I moved on.

I stuck to the theme of Hawaiian quilting and echo-quilted both the flower and the border, and I went with a simple fused binding with one of my black hand-dyes--nothing fancy.

And so, my finished class project!

And the back looks pretty spiffy too! (Used another of my hand-dyes)

And the back looks pretty spiffy too! (Used another of my hand-dyes)

And so, for my review of the class itself:

1. I had a ball doing this. It was a fun combination of quilting with my old fave hobby, coloring. (Coloring in geometric design coloring books was my main form of stress relief in college, in my pre-quilting days.)

2. I learned a new technique that can be applied in many ways in future art quilts.

3. I got more comfortable with free-form thread sketching, contouring, and so forth.

4. I realized I'm actually not too bad at shading and drawing. Still no Van Gogh, but hey, good enough for horseshoes!

5. Lola Jenkins is a very artistic person and I enjoyed hearing her tips and suggestions for tools, techniques, and different ways to achieve results. Please note that the description of my approach above is inspired by her class but doesn't follow it exactly. You really should check out her class to see how she does things. I have a few take-away ideas that I can easily see myself putting into practice in other projects even if I didn't use them here.

The Basics:

  • 11 lessons, ranging from about 6 minutes to 35 minutes
  • She addresses choosing materials, supplies and resources, how to set up your sewing machine, etc, and then has one full lesson on finding copyright-free art with some very helpful ideas.
  • The next lessons are about turning a photo or image into something you can trace on fabric, adding other elements to the design, transferring the designs onto fabric, creating your quilt sandwich, stitching it out, coloring (over two lessons, with specific tips about eyes, lips, and shading), and final steps to set the color. The last lesson is a gallery of her own work which gives plenty of inspiration!

I really enjoyed this class. Two thumbs up! 

One more time, that's Thread Art with Lola Jenkins. Get out your colored pencils and get ready to have fun!

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