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Sometimes Sewing

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As I’ve mentioned, I’m really enjoying my weekends since last semester ended. I’d love to say I’m sewing all the time, but I’m not. But I could be. And I have been getting back into a quilt I started. It’s all triangles making blocks, and I am somewhat randomly making the blocks. The centers are all the beige-y coral/orange- pairs with exterior corners being of blue-greenish pieces. Any square can go next to any other square and look pretty good. I’ll arrange it so that there aren’t two identical triangles next to each other. I’m having a lot of fun with this. I’ve got many more triangles cut out and many more blocks to make. Right now I’ve got 30, which includes the original 9 that started this project. Those 9 were sewn together eons ago and all additional blocks have been made out of new coordinating fabrics. I’m either going to make that 9 patch be the center or….pick apart the seams and distribute those 9 blocks (which do look a little different) throughout the others. If you look at this picture you can see at the very top those 9 blocks.

I really need to get a big embroidery project started (starting is the hardest part for me) so that I have something to pick up. In the meantime at this year’s Midwinter Stitchathon I enjoyed whipping up this little Valentine’s Day decor. (In the post before this I made one of these that I gave away.)

And yes, there was an annual Midwinter Stitchathon, which was delightful. There was, of course, seasonal candy and other delicious treats, loads of Olympics to watch, and later in the day a lovely snowfall. Somehow Tabby is participating in this now, though she is not much of a stitcher. Our rule is that if she is going to be with the ladies she has to be doing some kind of handicraft. She chose to continue some knitting my mom taught her and did quite well with it. It was actually quite the girls’ weekend as Paul and Clark were on a winter camping trip. We had a wonderful time with the stitchathon, movies, and enough snow that on Sunday morning we had a great time making the most of our small but potentially treacherous (because of stopping when you hit trees or thorn bushes) hill.


2017 Christmas Cookies

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Yes, Christmas has happened, and the cookie party was a couple of weeks ago, but better late than never. I couldn’t not have a recap of the annual Christmas party because I do love to look back on them. So this year we had the same setup as usual-cheese ball, punch, music, and cookies cookies cookies. I was very undecided about what I wanted to make right up until a few days before. I decided to make a citrus spritz cookie, for which there was a recipe in a new cookbook I had bought. Spritz cookies (we just called them “cookie press cookies”) were a regular part of my mom’s Christmas baking. I loved them-a butter cookie that tasted great straight from the freezer, delightfully decorated with red and green sugars, silver dragees, and cinnamon red hots (for the wreaths!) This recipe was citrus, which meant it had orange/lemon zest in the dough and then you dipped it in a citrus glaze.  I basically never make cookie press cookies because they are a pain and never seem to work. True to form, these would go along great and then 12 in a row wouldn’t stick to the pan. So aggravating! I didn’t feel these looked very Christmassy because I used orange sugar to decorate (atop the glaze) to go with the citrus flavor. That said, they tasted delicious. Tabby made a cookie this year and it was most attractive–a pinwheel sugar cookie. It was a regular sugar cookie recipe.

Offerings from our guests included:
Hot chocolate mint cookie ( I had seen this recipe online myself and thought about doing it!)
Pretzel caramel (tasted like a chocolate chip cookie dough base with addition of pretzels and caramels, which I love.)
Vanilla Polka Dots (a Dorie Greenspan recipe which exceptional vanilla taste and crunch. The pearl sugar was pretty.)
Gingerbread Men (it was so nice to see cute traditionally decorated gingerbread men!)
Christmas Trees (adorable sugar cookie trees)
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Lemon Bites (very similar to the “orange brownies” I sometimes make in the winter. Brownie texture, not really a cake, but very pure lemon flavor. These were a hit.)
Cranberry Pumpkin Bites
Peanut Butter Crunchies (I felt like these deserved a special prize because it’s a vintage recipe my friend made after seeing it on over at MidCentury Menu.  This was kind of gross looking, and pretty weird (as one expects from vintage recipes) as it had chow mein noodles in it. But guess what? It was delicious!)
Reindeer Bites (a smushed up Oreo ball concoction decorated to look like a reindeer. The baker (except they are no-bake) fully admitted to making these in a bid for an appearance win, a strategy which totally worked.)

The winners were…..

Most Christmassy: Reindeer Bites

Best Appearance: Gingerbread Men

and the overall big winner was….Melissa and her Vanilla Polka Dot cookies.  Melissa is multiple times winner, but it’s been a few years since she won first prize. She used the collected winnings to purchase and donate to Chimp Haven, which is awesome.



Happy Summer!

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It’s been a bit over two months since my last post, but I’m inspired to catch up-mostly because my dear friend and loyal reader said she missed it and today is her birthday, so here you go Perri! As a present to you I will be self centered and write all about my life 🙂 I think I will work backwards with the last few days. (*edit: it’s two days since I started this, so no longer her birthday, but there you go.)
Yesterday late afternoon I was thinking about the two fresh apricots I had bought and some leftover toasted almonds on my counter. I thought, “hmm…I bet that Thin Pear Tart I sometimes make in the winter would be a quick and tasty dessert with fresh apricots, and I even have the 2oz cream cheese necessary for the dough.” I easily whipped up the dough (this really is a quick and easy thing) and then saw that the apricots had rotted. No matter-the NJ blueberries are showing up at store and I had a few tasty pints in the fridge. I scattered blueberries across the top, baked, and voila!
Now, what else? Since that last post we’ve had Paul’s birthday

Father’s Day (I don’t have any cute pics of Paul and his human children, so here’s a very sweet picture of Paul and the kitty who adores him.)

The Last Day of School.  This is such a crazy event for me still and the whole last month of school felt so exciting and like we were barreling towards summer. I will really miss some of the students and it made me feel so good when many of them told me that they would miss me (our 5th graders are moving up to middle school.) I may have been even more excited than the kids for school to end. This was my first full year of teaching and hooray! I made it!! I like my job a lot, but was definitely ready for some resting and recharging, looking forward to plenty of time in the hammock and plenty of reading. [School got out June 23, today is July 4th, and I’ve read 7 books so far.]

Since summer has begun we haven’t done much of anything: reading, relaxing, kids playing with friends. I did sign up for tennis lessons through the rec dept. and am doing that with friends. We’ve only had 2 lessons so far, but I think we’re doing great! I even got together this morning just to play with someone. I know I’ll be even better when I can actually run to the ball. Presently I’m plagued by a painful knee situation. After being troubled by it for weeks I did go to the dr. and unfortunately the treatment is one of those slow and steady “do this exercise every day” things. It’s been a week and today it hurt all day long. Which is a total drag and makes me cranky.
I hosted a luau themed bunco, which was an excuse to make pina coladas and pull out a bunch of “tropical” recipes.

The main thing I’ve been itching to do since school let out is get into some sewing projects. I really do miss having the time to quilt or embroider (yes, I could do it in the evening, but I’m usually just needing to lie down in front of the tv), which is my creative outlet.I am hoping to make 2 quilts this summer. One is a giant pinwheel, which I got the pattern out of a book a long time ago. My pinwheel will be green and white, and I bought all the fabrics a couple months ago. I cut out the squares of green, but neglected to buy the background fabric, which I’ll be doing later this week.(*done! and I bought a hot pink for the binding, which will be a perfect accent.) The second is something I started a long time ago and then somewhat recently made a plan for. Like the pinwheel quilt it is all triangles (not my best shape-let’s see how many points line up!) and I bought the fabrics a few months ago. I sorted out the triangles today and made 5 blocks. I have a lot of pieces and have decided to NOT lay out the whole thing at once, but rather create a lot of blocks and then decide how they will be put together. My general guideline is that the center is a pair of peachy/coral and a pair of mushroom/taupe and the outer triangles are in the green/blue collection. But the pairs don’t necessarily have to match. I’m not even sure if it will all be put together just block after block after block, or if I’ll separate the blocks into concentric squares. I love all the fabrics I chose for it.

Finally, here’s a darling dishtowel I started, oh, years? ago. This was a set of retro style embroidery transfers, and I put this on a vintage style dishtowel. I think I got both at Walmart on the cheap. When I didn’t have a bigger project at our stitchathons I just worked idly on this. I basically forgot about it and came across it a couple of days ago noting that I only had the text left. What was I waiting for? Not only is it cute, but it would also be an adorable background for freshly baked bread that I’m taking a picture of for IG!

In the coop our numbers have continued to dwindle. A small sad flock remains. However! A hen finally went broody and last week chicks hatched. But it was a difficult week, there were deaths, and there is just one little chick. Let’s cross our fingers it grows up to be a hen, not a rooster. *update: the chick died yesterday. I found it lying on its side, dead. What gives? did a big chicken step on it? Not only that, but this morning it looked like something scratched up the dirt outside the coop gate. And the mother is missing. We are down to 4 hens and 3 roosters.

Willow just had her second anniversary of coming to us. Boy has she grown! We are so lucky to have her-she really is a marvelous dog.

In other dog news, my mom got a new dog! His name is Harry and he is adorable.
And today (2 days ago) is Blackie, our only remaining guinea pig, ‘s birthday. She is 5. I guess she’s at the far end of a guinea pig’s life span, but she still seems pretty spry. She even accommodated me for this birthday photo op.

We are not doing any vegetable gardening this year, save for lettuce and cilantro in a pot. Our peach tree is loaded with peaches and we hope at least a few will be edible. For the first time EVER the sad apple tree has apples on it- 3!

The flowers are in mad bloom and there are so many lovely colors everywhere. The coneflower has spread even more, making the front garden look almost cottage gardeny-just what I’ve always wanted. I’ve noticed that coneflower is also very popular with many different insects and butterflies and moths, so that’s good.

And, of course, peony season was tremendous and beautiful.

And as I type this we are getting ready to celebrate Clark’s birthday–#12! He is now officially taller than me by 1 1/2″.  Ok, that was also a couple days ago. The day was celebrated with many special meals and some fun at the arcade.


I think I’ve gotten some photo organization under control and hopefully will do more posts this summer that aren’t so long and rambling, but perhaps focused on one thing at a time. With that in mind-time to start sewing! (Of course it poured rain all morning and I cozied up with a book. Now the sun is out and it’s gorgeous and I probably SHOULD be doing outdoors things.)

Spring Celebrations

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This weekend we had two special events-my mom’s birthday and Clark’s Arrow of Light ceremony from Cub Scouts.  The latter was a pretty big deal-he started Cub Scouts in 1st grade. He’s continued on and is now moving on to Boy Scouts.Arrow of Light//’ve had a lot of fun with other families in the pack, camping and other crazy events, and Paul enjoyed being the Cubmaster for the past 2 years. Lots of great memories were made, so this farewell was bittersweet. It was quite a ceremony and as the boys walked over the bridge they were welcomed by their new Boy Scout troop. Clark is quite excited to join his new troop and looking forward to good times and making new friends.IMG_5945

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My mom’s birthday was also this weekend and I always see it as a sign of spring and enjoy coming up with a good menu for a special birthday dinner. I made cherry chicken spirals (chicken with cherries and some other stuff, rolled up), rice pilaf, asparagus, and a delicious salad of Boston lettuce, red onion, and avocado. Of course it’s really the cake we were all looking forward to. Happily my mom likes coconut, so things for her are always a good opportunity to make coconut things.  I made the Tropical Carrot & Coconut Cake from Baking by Flavor. Happy Birthday, Mom!// I had not made this before and it’s definitely a keeper. Super delicious. The cake had shredded carrots, coconut, and crushed pineapple in it. Happy Birthday, Mom!// better it had lots of fresh nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon it. So much that those flavors really came through. There was even a tiny bit of freshly grated nutmeg in the cream cheese frosting. The frosting was delicious, though there was a lot of it. Actually I thought this cake would be fine with just a little powdered sugar on top. Happy Birthday, Mom! Happy Birthday, Mom!//

The final spring celebration was the now annual Midwinter Stitchathon with Liz and Eleanor. This lovely event is an afternoon spent stitching, watching tv, and eating special snacks and seasonal candy together. Midwinter Stitchathon// menu this year was tea brack (an Irish tea cake with lots of dried fruit and demands to be eaten with butter), apricot turkey pinwheels (forever known now as “Yoshi Wellingtons”), cherry cola cake, and, as always, carrot dip and prosecco (not mixed together. Carrot dip eaten up with pretzels, prosecco guzzled down.)
Midwinter Stitchathon//
Midwinter Stitchathon//
My stitching project is an embroidery pattern I’ve had a couple of years and have decided would be just the thing for when I have a little time to want to do something stitchy. I actually went and bought all the suggested color flosses for this. Midwinter Stitchathon// was a grand time! And, oops! This is indeed quite a catchup. I’ll also mention another special event-the Father Daughter Dance for Girl Scouts. Tabby was so excited, felt so glamorous and excited to be going with Paul to this dance. It was a lovely event for them. Father Daughter Dance 2016So many special events!


The Annual Cookie Party-10 years!

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This weekend was one of our favorite holiday traditions-our Christmas cookie party. I can’t believe this was our 10th year having it! Ten years ago we just had some friends over, each of us sharing Christmas cookies. Now, it’s a festive party with both a charitable and a competitive element. I found myself reading all the past posts for past cookies and making a chart comparing winners and cookies. Peppermint and chocolate have always dominated, and Mary Lynn and Melissa have been big repeat winners. (Surprisingly, spoiler alert, neither of them won anything this year!) for a special party favor I made a booklet of recipes featuring several past winners.
10th Anniversary Cookie Party// planned to make adorable little meringue Santa hats I saw in the current issue of Woman’s Day. In the magazine they were adorable little red hats with white trim. Unfortunately when I made them they looked like pink slugs. or toes. or Peeps. 2015-12-18 18.02.19I turned to a recipe I’ve had in my holiday recipe file for a few years but never made. Well, turns out white chocolate cherry shortbreads are delicious. My entry: white chocolate cherry shortbreads// will definitely be making them again next year. Next time, though, I won’t bother dipping the cookie into the chocolate-I don’t think it needs it and its a bit overkill. Paul was inspired by a recent episode of the Holiday Baking Show (Bake Off?) and Mary Berry’s brandy snaps. Despite trepidation (mostly because of the show) they came out beautifully. Inspired by Mary Berry, Paul made brandy snaps. They were great!// by Mary Berry, Paul made brandy snaps. They were great!// crisp lacy tubes, and he filled them with an eggnog whipped cream. Would you believe that someone else also made brandy snaps?? What are the chances? Both versions were wonderful. Part of the spread (this year there were 10 entries)// other entries were: Melting snowman sugar cookie: This was so cute! A marshmallow and some detailed decorating and it looked like a marshmallow in a puddle of melted snow Ricotta cookie: a little dome shaped cookie with a white glaze on top and red and green sugar. I loved the texture of this cookie-very light. Apricot Walnut Bars: As soon as I heard what Carrie brought I knew that I would love this the best and it would not win. The fruit and nut cookies never do, but they are my very favorite type of cookie. I much prefer them to chocolatey cookies. Pecan Caramel bars: Loaded with pecans and caramel, this was a super rich bar with lots of butterscotch flavor. Pizzelles:Such a pretty cookie. The traditional circular cookie made in a pizelle iron, this had a wonderful anise flavor that I liked. Coconut Macaroons: I love macaroons and I assume that these were very good, but I can’t tell you that from personal tasting because they were all gone before I even got to try one! Dark Chocolate oatmeal Lace: These were superb. They looked liked those cookies you get at Italian bakeries, but I think these were even better. Two lace cookies with a thin layer of chocolate in between and a dusting of powdered sugar. Very pretty and Christmas fancy. Literally every single cookie was delicious. The Most Christmassy award when to the melting snowman, the best looking to the pizzelles, and the overall winner was Elaine’s brandysnaps. To counteract all the sweets we had a some savories, including the now traditional cheese ball. This year’s cheese ball seemed especially tasty. The Blessed Cheese Ball// was sure that Willow would prove to be a nuisance during the party, and also that she would eat up cookies. I’m pleased to report that she was such a good girl, very well behaved, and did not eat any cookies. In fact, she got so worn out she ended up just curling up and going to sleep in the middle of it all
Tuckered out//
This Christmas season I’ve had trouble finding and holding on to the Christmas spirit (I fully blame the terribly unseasonably warm weather), but now that we’ve had our Christmas party, it is definitely here for good. Merry Christmas!

Panda Party

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Panda love tacos// weekend Tabby celebrated her birthday with a party with friends. She requested a panda theme with tacos. Because everyone knows pandas love tacos, right? Right! We decided a panda party would constitute a panda cake, some panda decorations,and of course, a panda cutout. In the midst of the party we’d have make your own tacos. I don’t actually know if kids care about decorations, but I was pretty pleased with hanging paper lanterns and drawing faces of pandas on the white lanterns. Look how cute! panda lanterns for decorations//
As usual her party was held outside and we anxiously watched the weather. A grey damp morning led to a glorious sunny blue skied afternoon. Perfect! We organized lots of traditional games of things like Red Panda (aka Red Rover), a version of tag, and more. And of course the easiest fun ever-piles of leaves to jump in.
sack races// cake may be one of my favorites I’ve ever made. This panda is so cute you literally want to eat him right up. He’s holding bamboo, which is simply Pirouette cookies that I brushed with sugar syrup and sprinkled with green sugar. So cute I want to eat him up! I'm so pleased with how this came out//

She loved her cake// served it with strawberry ice cream (Tabby’s favorite flavor) which I pre-scooped into foil cupcake liners. I am totally always going to do this for parties now because I hate scooping and it was so nice and tidy to have it all done ahead of time. ala mode//
The girls all had a good time and were sent home with, of course, packages of Hello Panda cookies. Happy Birthday (again) Tabby!
Happy Birthday!//

The Annual Christmas Cookie Party

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It’s been a whirlwind of various Scout meetings, Christmas prep, and Christmas parties, including our very own annual Christmas cookie party.  We tried to figure out how many we’ve had and I believe it was the 8th time we’ve had this event.  There were many delicious entries this year:
Almond Crescents-I made these and they are one of my very favorite Christmas cookies.
Almond crescents with new pipe cleaner tree

Cookie Canes-Paul won with these last year. They are addictive. It’s just the dough of chocolate chip cookies with ground up candy canes in them. And so they melt and get very flat and he slices them into strips with a pizza cutter.
Thumbprints-one of my favorites! I haven’t made mine yet, so I was very happy that our friend Betty did. A delicious classic.
Chocolate Candy Cane something or other-these were gorgeous, made by Melissa. A recipe from last week’s NYT. It was a chocolate cookie, completely enrobed in chocolate, sprinkled with candy cane crumbles.

the prettiest cookie

Chocolate Peanut Butter sandwich cookies by Mary Lynn. Described by her as “they are like hamburgers they are so big” Indeed they were quite large and hearty.
Pumpkin Caramel Thumbprints-Carrie made these and they were heavenly. I could have eaten them all day long.
Pistachio Kisses-I LOVED these. the cookie had pistachio and walnuts in it, was pale green and a nice flat circle, with a chocolate kiss in the middle and some red sprinkles. Far superior to those peanut blossom cookies.
Peppermint Kisses-a chocolate cookie with a peppermint kiss in the middle
Spice Cookies– It was like a drop cookie with “spice chips” in the dough. I have not seen these chips before– like chocolate chips, but orange colored.
String up the Lights-our friend Stephanie said she knew she wouldn’t win on taste, so she went for presentation. Indeed the presentation was spectacular!

"Stringing Up the Lights"

The overall winner were the thumbprints, with the award for Most Christmassy going to Melissa’s chocolatey minty cookies, and Best Looking going to Stephanie’s colored lights cookies.  Prizes were a sequined ornament and the Christmas oven towels for all.
I like to put out some savory things, too, especially a cheese ball.
The blessed Cheese Ball
I also really wanted to finally use the hot pepper jelly I made last year. I mixed it up with cream cheese and…it looked disgusting. Apparently you don’t mix them up together, you pour the jelly on top. Paul described the cottage cheesey looking dip as “unsettling”.  It did taste pretty good, though. Oh, and of course I made hot candied walnuts.
It was lots of fun and immediately afterward we headed out to a holiday parade that our Cub Scouts were in (on a float!)
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