Jelly roll sampler in progress

This really poor picture is of the only sewing I've gotten done this week so far. And, technically, there's been no sewing involved yet. I'm puttering away at sorting a jelly roll for sampler blocks using the new Jelly Roll Sampler book by Pam and Nicky Lintott. The jelly roll I chose (Fig & Plum by Fig Tree Quilts for Moda) isn't high contrast, so the blocks will be fairly muted. I think the overall effect will be fairly shabby chic or something. If it turns out nicely, it might go well in my aunt-in-law's cottage, but I'm not marrying myself to any particular thoughts of how the end results might be used yet.

So, there's the sum total of my quiltmaking life for the last week. I guess I can cut myself a little slack after finishing up that Serengeti project. Speaking of he is, hanging in her dorm room.

Also living in her dorm room, a lion quilt my mom made her when she was little--maybe 5 or 6. She was a huge Lion King fan most of her childhood, so she's surrounded by lions.

That's what every college girl needs, right?

Grilled Pizza Debriefing

Rolling out the dough. Using my new French rolling pin that I bought at a local arts festival a few weeks ago. Polished maple. Absolutely love it!

Stacked up the rolled crusts with parchment paper between, covered with a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Wanted as much rolled before everyone got there as possible so I wouldn't be spending the afternoon with a rolling pin in my hand rather than a tasty summer beverage. (Note to self: next time use parchment paper that covers the entire piece of dough. When my nephew took the crusts to the patio to grill and they started warming up, they got very chummy with each other under that towel and we had problems with some of them not letting go of each other.)

Oops. Forgot to take a picture of the toppings "bar" before it got nailed by hungry guests. But you get the idea. BTW, the dip in the middle of the fruit plate (pineapple and strawberries) was also a new recipe--very tasty! Plain yogurt with a banana blended in, cinnamon...maybe one or two other things that I've forgotten now, but yum. Especially with pineapple. Who'd-a-thunk that pineapple and cinnamon would be tasty together? I also made a acai-pomegranate salad dressing that's a definite keeper. Successful day all around with the first-timer-recipes.

My nephew's pizza stylin's on the grill. (Don't recall what all was on his: alfredo sauce, spinach, black olives, garlic, tomatoes...probably at least three other things. He's the most adventuresome eater of all of us.) Grill the crust first, then add toppings, then bake it off either over indirect heat on the grill or in the oven. We had both going at once to try to get as many pizzas done at one time as possible.

Mine waiting its turn to go on the grill. Alfredo sauce, spinach, caramelized onions, pancetta, parmesan. Plus I threw some roasted red peppers on the top right before it hit the grill--I'd been waffling on them and finally gave in. (I've always loved roasted red peppers. Don't know why I was waffling in the first place.)

My MIL surprised me by bringing dessert. French vanilla pound cake that she split into three parts lengthwise, then grilled briefly to toast it up just a little. Spread a marscapone-with-lemon cream filling between the layers with strawberries, blueberries and red raspberries. Very, very good!

I'm exhausted now--two days on my feet getting everything ready. But the upside is I have lots of leftovers of dough, grilled crusts, and toppings. I think I know what I'm having for lunch tomorrow!

A Foodie Post: Grilled Pizzas

This post is dedicated to Susan of The History Quilter. :-)

A few weeks ago, my nephew and I took a cooking class at our local culinary school (NY Wine and Culinary Center), learning how to make grilled pizza. I've made homemade pizza for a long time, but have always wanted to try grilling it, so I was really excited about the class. My sister (said nephew's mother), and a family friend and her daughter joined us. The class was an absolute hoot. Grilling pizza is surprisingly simple, plus I learned how to make a couple of different sauces on top of it.

So tomorrow we've invited my in-laws over and my nephew and I will be testing our grilled pizza chops. There will be somewhere between 7 and 9 people here. I'm planning on making fairly small personal-sized pizzas so that (1) they'll grill and bake pretty quickly and (2) people can play with topping combinations by doing a couple of different pizzas for themselves. My nephew will be the grill-master; I'll be in the kitchen. (He'll grill the crusts, then we'll bake them off both in the stove and over indirect heat on the grill--we'll need both going at once to get everyone taken care of in a decent time frame.)

Mind you--grilling pizza is easy, but providing a range of toppings takes a long time. I spent a few hours in the kitchen today in prep, and still have some left to do tomorrow in addition to the dough. (Of course, adding bruschetta and a fruit plate with yogurt dip into the menu as appetizers didn't help. I have problems with thinking small!)

Our options are going to be:
Sauces: Traditional red pizza sauce (store-bought, but a nice one); Margherita sauce (homemade); Alfredo sauce (homemade); olive oil and garlic or seasonings as desired
Cheeses: Mozzarella, feta, goat cheese, parmesan
Toppings: Roasted red peppers (my daughter did those--she's really good at it); spinach; sliced Roma tomatoes; black olives; pancetta; caramelized Vidalia onions; red onions; pineapple--if any is leftover from the fruit plate appetizer; pepperoni; fresh basil and fresh oregano from my garden; sliced garlic (yep, raw--that's my nephew's request). I may end up adding Italian sausage to the list tomorrow if my nephew decides to run out and buy some for me.

I also made a homemade acai salad dressing--which was supposed to be pomegranate but my daughter grabbed the wrong bottle at the grocery store and I didn't notice until we got home. But the acai juice was a blend with pomegranate anyway, so the recipe didn't seem to care. Still tasty. And I'm debating between two different yogurt dip recipes to put with the fruit tray--that'll take me all of about 5 minutes to do tomorrow so I'm not sweating it.

So wish me luck as we crank up the grill and see if we've remembered everything we learned. I'll try to remember to snap a picture somewhere along the way but can't make any guarantees!

Half the fun down, the other half to go

Since I'm going to be gone for a couple of weeks, my husband suggested he and I do an overnight at a B&B in the Finger Lakes, something we haven't done very often. Here we are, near the Finger Lakes, and we've never gone to an inn on one of them. So last night we packed up and hit the road as soon as work was done; an hour and a half later it was like we were in a different world. Well, not entirely. It looked an awful lot like the town I grew up in and not too far off the town we live in. But it still, it was away. We had a great time. Already have plans to go back.

There was an antique fair going on while we were there and I found one of my favorite things: printing press letters. So I now have the word "quilt" displayed in mismatched printers letters displayed in my quilting area. Very cute. I love them. They make me smile.

I also got some foodie stuff at a cute little kitchen boutique shop (I'm a sucker for a good finishing sauce), and some really wonderful "found item" frames for antique pictures that will look great in my dining room.

There's a really nice quilt shop (rumored, anyway--I've never been there) nearby, but it was 10 minutes in the wrong direction so I didn't get to check it out. Next time!

After our overnight, my husband dropped me off at the New York Wine and Culinary Center for a cooking class I had registered for with my nephew, his mother (my sister), and a couple of very close family friends. The class was on grilled pizza. It was great fun! I picked up a couple of great cooking tips and came right home to put one of them into practice...not on pizza, but on fettucini. Can't wait until I'm back from my trip and can make some grilled pizza!

Tomorrow I'm taking my daughter to meet my in-laws for a local arts/crafts festival that I'm usually out of town for, so I'm looking forward to that. Absent the fact it's supposed to be 90 degrees or more. But we're not going to stay long because I have to finish packing when I get home.

I probably won't be able to blog again until I'm home in a couple of weeks. Stay quilty!

Summer Quiet

I haven't posted a podcast episode in the last week because I'm still in a quiet mood. Not sad, necessarily, although I'm still doing that "empty nest" thing that started the morning after my daughter's graduation. So weird little things hit me at odd moments. But it's also been a super-busy time at work, and a pretty stressful time for my husband at his work. So we've both been reacting--to stress and to empty-nesting--by, ironically, nesting. For example, today we celebrated the Fourth of July by paying bills, re-evaluating our budget (see previous references to two college tuitions!), then I gave the kitchen cabinets and appliances a thorough scrubbing while he headed out to do some yard work. I don't think we're even going anywhere to watch fireworks--we're both just in the mood to stay home. Mind you, I did take the morning to finish a book I was reading (the last book in the Hunger Games trilogy), and I believe my husband spent most of that time playing Civilization (his hobby of choice), so it's not like we were working like maniacs all day. But we simply chose not to go anywhere or do anything--just stay at home doing homey things.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd post some pictures of what was surrounding me this morning as I was finishing the book. Love this time of year.

Playing with the Palette for my Next Project

Nice alliteration in the title, eh?

So apparently it's not enough that I currently have four projects in the works; I have to start thinking about my fifth. Someone shoot me before I hurt myself.

What's on my design wall, cutting mat, or sewing machine right now?

(1) Pinwheel project (it's made significant progress since the last post that talked about it); (2) Serengeti project (from my May quilt retreat--apparently I've not posted a pic of it yet, sorry); (3) Chicken Butt project; (4) Hexie project (have 39 out of about 180 hexies cut). Plus two UFOs that really just need to get done this summer because they're starting to annoy me, hanging on their hangers, mocking me every time I walk by them.

But still, I can't help myself. I started playing with fabrics in my stash the other night. Here's the palette that resulted.

The two that got things rolling are the second and third in from the left. Several weeks ago I'd been moving fabrics around and just tossed one of those on top of the other to get it momentarily out of the way. When I went to pick it up later to put it away, I was struck by the two sitting side-by-side. Not my normal color palette at all. But even after I'd put them back in their normal locations, I found myself thinking about those two colors again and again. I finally put myself out of my quilty misery and started pulling other pieces off my shelf.

I was a little worried about contrast until I took the black and white version. It actually seems to be OK. I might still want something a hair lighter in there, maybe another print, but since I don't even know what I'm doing with them yet, I'm not sweating it at the moment.

I think I know what they're destined to become a part of, but it's all very misty in my head. I'll let it percolate on its own for awhile; it'll all come together in due time.

Apparently I'm working at a very high level of distraction these days. I suspect that has to do with the fact that it's crunch time at work right now; lots of deadlines hitting all at once. I can keep track of everything and stay head-down-blinders-on-nose-to-the-grindstone while I'm working. Then I get off my computer at the end of the work day and it's like every methodical part of me flies out the window and I can't keep focus for more than seven seconds at a time. I can live with that--I know it's not Normal Me so I'll roll with it and welcome Normal Me whenever she decides to come back and live in my house again.

Meanwhile, I have some fabric to go pet.

If you'll permit me a departure from usual subjects for a moment...

It finally, and rather unexpectedly, hit me today.

I expect to get choked up at graduation.
I expect to get choked up (and probably more) when we drop her off at college and drive away that first time.

I seriously did not expect it today, when I ran her down to school for her last final exam of high school.

Baby girl is graduating.

We hopped in the car and headed down to school, as she ran me through her afternoon post-exam plans of walking from school into town with friends to hang out at the sub shop for awhile (Subway being the contemporary version of the 1950s soda shop around here). I dropped her off at the door after her habitual quick kiss on the cheek and, "Bye, Mom, love you!" tossed over her shoulder as she closed the car door behind her. I was fine. I pulled out of the parking lot, turned left onto the street to head back home, and the middle school came into view; it sits right next to the high school building. As I drew near the middle school, some class of kids came pouring out of a set of side doors with all sorts of balls in their hands and immediately started breaking up into groups based on whatever social categories exist for them at the moment. Guys wrestling in the grass, girls standing in tight circles whispering and giggling and looking nervously over the shoulders at the boys, a few kids standing uncomfortably by themselves around the fringe edges.

That's when it hit me. Baby girl is graduating. My throat tightened up as I recalled how relieved I was when both of my kids moved into high school--middle school is such a seething mass of hormones and every passing day brought its own drama. I watched those kids on the middle school lawn playing out whatever scenes their reality has set for them and remembered how vulnerable my own kids seemed during those years. Even now, picturing my middle-school kids' faces in my head, my heart twitches a little bit in memory--how much I wanted to protect them but needed to mostly let them find their own way; how alternatingly annoying and charming they could be; how we never quite knew what reaction to expect from one moment to the next; how relieved we'd be when baby girl would flash a smile instead of a scowl or when buzz-man (my son) would laugh something off rather than yell back in anger.

High school was ever so much easier.

As I drove away from my daughter today at the school, I realized that I hadn't waited for her to make it all the way into the front doors of the school like I always used to. I've had several months of reminding myself, "She's 18. She'll be at college soon. I won't even know what's going on." Apparently it's sunk in enough that I'm willing to assume she'll make it the 50 yards or so into the front door of the high school safely without me watching over her.

The event of going to college has very little to do with the kids learning to do without Mom and Dad, but with Mom and Dad learning that their kids are actually adults. And I'm good with that. I'm loving who my kids have grown up into. They may not always make the decisions I'd make, but generally speaking they make good ones. And the not-so-good ones, well, those are "learning experiences," as my Dad always used to call them.

My son is a few months away from being 21. I love the fact that he texts me several times a week--sometimes just to let me know what's going on with him; other times to ask for advice. My daughter has already said that she plans on putting Skype on her computer so we can do video calls with each other when she's gone. It's true--new communication has made the world much smaller these days. I'm excited for my daughter to start college--I think she's really going to bloom. My husband and I have commented to each other many times how much fun our kids are to hang out with now. They always have been, but there's a definite shift now into a different type of relationship. I'm enjoying every second of it.

So I'll wave farewell to the high school, the middle school, and the elementary school which all formed the locus of our lives for the last 20 years. I'll get a little choked up at graduation. I'll get even more so when we drop baby girl off at college. And I'll return to a house that would feel a bit too empty if it weren't for the two doofus dogs excited to get my undivided attention during the semester. And then we'll all move on to see what the future brings. Pretty cool stuff, all around.

O Tomato

O tomato, you do make me smile.

Every now and then you have to buy something just because it's entertaining. But in this case, this truly bizarre looking example of tomatohood is inspiring me in my attempts to be healthier. Although I like fruits and vegetables, I don't tend to naturally eat the suggested 5-7 a day. I have to be very intentional about it. So at the grocery store this morning I got a lot of my usual produce and then wanted to get something just a little different to try.

OK, so it's still a tomato. But at least it's a funny looking tomato. That's different. And it's an heirloom variety, which I've never tried. So that's different. So it counts.

Who knows--maybe it'll be my next creativity challenge photo to throw at you all!