Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Little Rusty

hexie diamonds: QuiltBee
It has been go, go, go lately. First it was prep and baking for the Holly Bazaar in early November, then it was prep and planning the Cookie Bakeoff, and now it's full on Christmas shopping and prep (after a week in the stand the tree is finally decorated and ready to be enjoyed).

So, quilting has taken a back seat to all of the seasonal fun for a while and I'm starting to miss it. I'm starting to feel a bit more in control so I have picked up Minnie again to enjoy some hand sewing. But I'm obviously a little rusty - this is not how the join should look; the pink and light green should bump up against each other.





hexie diamonds: QuiltBee
Over the summer there was a full court press to get the outer border sewn onto on my sets of four hexies and I made great progress. There are more to do but first I want to make up all of the diamonds that I have assembled into four-diamond diamonds, if that makes any sense.

Once I have them all together I'll be able to assess what colours I need for the outer borders, so that's where I'm picking up. It was so relaxing to be able to just sit a bit and stitch.






quilting project box: QuiltBee
My project box has lots of hexies that I can choose from and more strips tucked into the corner of hexies yet to be cut. It keeps everything nicely contained until the pieces start getting larger.

I haven't laid them all yet out but I am hoping that I almost have enough to start assembling the top early in the new year. Minnie is always on hand when I need to pick something up, and when I need a pick-me-up!....M


Sunday, December 09, 2018

30 Years Later...

Believe cross stitch: QuiltBeeYup, just 30 years after starting my 'Believe' cross stitch its now completed (maybe it's only 28-29, but what's a year here and there?). That didn't take very long, did it?

When I picked it up a few weeks ago I thought that I just had a bit of outlining to do, but noooo - there was quite a bit of it still to finish up, along with more stitching to add. As I went along I realized why this had been set aside - I had run out of the deep purple floss for Santa's sack.








I checked with a few shops in town and finally found DMC floss but the colour code that I had was nowhere to be seen (I almost think that DMC codes have completely changed since this project was started because there was nothing in the 6000 series). Not having been smart enough to take the piece shopping with me so that I could match thread colours (I just took the colour code) I was left trying to figure out which might work; these three came home with me.

None of them were a match but given the area that needed to be stitched I was able to get away with using one. Whew!


At long last it was finished, or at least so I thought. When taking photos I noticed that there are four tiny red stitches missing in this candy cane (just above the toy elephant), so I'll put those in today and that will wrap it up.












Santa cross stitch: QuiltBee
I still like it as much as the day I started it, particularly that it is stitched on linen, and think that I will get it framed. I had thought of using it for a cushion top but I'm afraid of how the cross stitch would wear. Every now and then we enjoy the company of a little four-legged visitor who likes to beat up on my cushions, sending them flying to the floor. I think Santa would be much safer in a frame.

Yesterday we celebrated my favourite niece's birthday so I made a white, snowy cake to match the day. Lots of fun celebrating this lovely and talented gal...M

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Queen For a Day

Incredibly, the calendar has rolled around to Christmas Cookie Bakeoff time again, which we enjoyed to the max yesterday. And this was a special one - it was our 25th anniversary edition of getting together to see how many different combinations of butter and sugar could be created in a single day!











The first get together was back in 1993 in the tiny kitchen of my first home with this little guy manning the gears on the KitchenAid (isn't he a doll?). He's 30 now and still my favourite nephew 😉. Over the years there has been a slight ebb and flow to who was able to join in the fun, but each one was a memorable beginning to our holiday season.










So, how to mark this milestone? Why, with commemorative aprons designed by my favourite niece. They were bundled up with packages of coffee and hot chocolate and a tiny Santa box of treats.

And what's a cookie baking apron without a Cookie Queen tattoo? I mean really, doesn't everyone deserve to be Queen for a day? Oh, the fun we had!













Group photo...
















My friend Lori travels three hours to join us (amazing, I know) and was a little delayed this year as she made several stops to take pics of Mother Nature's contribution to the day.














As usual, things got off to an early start and in no time the table was filling in with tasty treats.

There are always a few cookies that everyone looks forward to in their tins - Social Tea Squares and Buttered Rum cookies, to name a couple - but this year we tried lots of new recipes too, like these Gingerbread Molasses Cookies with Eggnog Frosting. Sweet.










Stephanie always picks the best recipes to make and these Chocolate Thumbprints with Candy Cane Kisses were no exception.

She also made a fantastic chocolate peppermint cookie that I'm going to need to get the recipe for.










Anne's Chocolate Dipped Shortbread with Ginger and Sea Salt were divine (we had to sample a few that were broken as they were pulled off the cooling racks)!













I was feeling a little nostalgic after making mom's Christmas Cake a couple of weeks ago so I pulled out her recipe for Macaroons and made them too. A lovely walk down memory lane.













We are very strategic in placing our graphic designers Jane, Julia and Betty (not shown) on the decorating table...














...all under the watchful eye of Baylea, who was in charge of quality control.



Betty has perfected the art of cooling cookies on the front porch.

















We did have a little unexpected excitement this year. When there is a lineup to get into the oven we set trays of cookies that are ready to bake out on the back porch to stay cool. Well, this year we had a little visitor who thought that we were kindly setting out treats for his enjoyment (first time this has ever happened). Note the gap on the cookie sheet. Little rascal.









Jen was kept busy in 'shipping & receiving', packaging up our tins just so. We missed her daughters Megan and Emily this year.















And of course, there's always a rotation at the kitchen sink throughout the day because when you make 160 dozen cookies there's going to be some cleanup required.













From our gang to yours, here's to a wonderful holiday season and may your cookie plate always be filled with lots of variety!....M


Friday, November 16, 2018

Happiness

We woke up to a blanket of white this morning which, while very pretty, is early for snow in my books. I knew it was coming so last evening I scampered to get the urn for the back deck pulled together (whew!). It did get me into the holiday spirit a bit though. What to do? Why, make Christmas cake of course!











I have never made Christmas cake but in my book it is a wonderful tradition (I can hear a few of you gasping), the ideal sweet to enjoy with a cup of tea that can be savoured long after all the decorations are put away.

Since mom passed away I haven't been able to enjoy that treat and I miss it dearly so this fall I went on a hunt for the recipe. I searched high and low, finding versions that included the ingredients but no instructions then finally instructions but no baking details. Close enough - I could glean how to bake them from other recipes that I had found online.

fruit for Christmas cake: QuiltBee
I remember mom making her cake - the huge bowl of fruit and nuts all mixed together, the loaf pans stacked in her roast pan going into the oven - but I didn't pay quite enough attention to the process; despite that I just had to give it a shot. I'm so glad that I did. As soon as the fruit and nuts were all mixed together I was transported back to my childhood.









This is a HUGE recipe (12 eggs!) and pretty soon I realized that I was going to need a larger mixing bowl. Down to the storage room I went, and voila! Anyone that grew up in our household will recognize 'the big yellow bowl'. Mom used it to mix up her weekly batch of mouthwatering bread or rolls and her Christmas cake, too. Suddenly it was like she was right beside me in the kitchen.







Christmas cake: QuiltBee
There is so much fruit in this recipe - 10 pounds to be exact. I was a little concerned that there wouldn't be enough batter to round things out properly, but it baked up really nicely. Now to spend the next month nursing these little beauties periodically with rum until Santa arrives.








Christmas cake: QuiltBee
The Official Cookie Tester wasted no time deciding that he needed sample one and declared it swoon-worthy. I have to agree; it tastes just like I remember.

I've also found a recipe for Christmas cake with dark chocolate...that has to be tried some day too. In the meantime, I feel like I spent the afternoon in the kitchen with mom so it was worth it just for that....M

Update: I've had a request for mom's recipe so if you like Christmas cake I'd encourage you to try it.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

PHB

Mary Englebright Believe cross stitch: QuiltBee
I'm in the PHB zone now (Post Holly Bazaar) - that time when all the prep is behind me and I'm left looking around wondering what it is that I should do next. It's nice not to have a list of pressing projects and baking to deal with but it leaves me a little adrift.

I wasn't quite ready to sit in to my hoop to do some hand quilting or to go down and work on the sewing machine, but I did want to do something. Then, while I was rummaging around in the project basket in the study my bag of Christmas cross stitch fell into my hand.






This was going to be my holiday stitching project last year but that didn't bear much fruit. When I looked at it again last night the timing seemed right to pick it up and I got a few stitches in before bed.

Mary Englebright Believe cross stitch: QuiltBee
There really isn't that much more to do, just some outlining and highlights at the bottom of the piece, so that's going to be today's slow sewing project. If I put my mind to it I should be able to finish it today. I just have to 'believe'!....M

Friday, November 09, 2018

Done and Dusted

Well, another Holly Bazaar is in the books. Toppers and pot holders were bound and stockings were hung and all was finally ready.















There was a baking frenzy before everything headed out the door so the Official Cookie Tester was working overtime. I baked two different types of loaves (Cranberry Orange and Plum)...













and Social Tea Squares...
















Toblerone shortbread cookies: QuiltBee
and a double batch of yummy Toblerone Shortbread.















gingerbread men: QuiltBeeThis year there were also Gingerbread cookies. I made up a batch of dough last weekend and with the help of Anne and Betty made enough snowflakes and Gingerbread men to fill nine bags with cookies.













This is Martha Stewart's recipe and it is lovely - great to roll and they are delicious. A hit of black pepper gives them a nice little kick. Betty always makes these for the Christmas cookie bakeoff so this was the first time that I actually made the dough.

butter tarts: QuiltBee
And there were Butter Tarts too, some with raisins and some with pecans. I haven't made them in years but once I got the idea into my head there was no turning back. I've had this recipe since 2002 and never made it. Its from a bakery in Baysville called Humble Pie Bakery that is renowned for their butter tarts. Can you say 'divine'? OMG! I'd forgotten how good they were. These now go into the rotation.

The bake table did a brisk business as did the craft table and the silent auction. Lunch was ham and scalloped potatoes so after I finished serving tables I had two orders packaged up for takeout which will be our dinner and I am looking forward to it.

As I drove home a gentle snow started to fall and is leaving a dusting on the ground. There will be a rain/snow mix so it won't last, but it was a nice seasonal touch to end the day's festivities....M

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Same, But Different

The Holly Bazaar is at the end of the week so if I'm going to share my two versions of the Moda Love table toppers like I promised I'd better do it before they leave the house. This is the first one that I made and followed the layout of the inspiration piece that I was referring to.












And this is the second one. They are the same pattern but this one doesn't have a white border around the star. I had already cut the back and batting for it before I realized that there had been a border on the first one so I decided to go ahead and make it without the border and see what it looks like. I think either one work well, and this one might be more suitable for someone with a smaller table.







Both share that happy, stripey binding,
















and cheery backings. This red print is on the smaller one and a green version of it was used for the larger one. I bought several yards of each of them a few years ago on sale and they have really come in handy.












scrappy quilted potholders: QuiltBee
In keeping with the 'same, but different' theme, and despite my slow mo mojo I also finished my four scrappy potholders.














scrappy quilted potholders: QuiltBee
They all have scraps of orange but no two are identical. They will be added to the pile for the craft table as well.

This is going to be it for this year. There is one more topper on the design wall but I just kept tripping over myself to get it made so I decided that I didn't need to stress over it and it would be fine to just call it a day. It has made all the difference to my stress level. So now it's just baking and then let the reindeer games begin!.....M

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Queen of Halloween Rides Again

Jane is a maker. She is happiest creating - everything from quilts to softies to greeting cards and ephemera. She's also the Queen of Halloween, getting into the spirit of things more than almost anyone I know.













So it was no surprise that she would turn her hand to creating some fabulous banners to celebrate this spooky season. Vintage prints, ric rac, ribbon and a few embellishments and she was off to the races.












Halloween banners: QuiltBee
This year she made four of them, each with their own wonderful style.















Do you recognize the candy corn blocks in the back? In short order, leftovers from her recent Halloween quilt border became the inspiration for a new project.













The banners herald the completion of her latest Halloween quilt, beautifully quilted by Roberta. (Jane sent it off with a warning not to be afraid of the glow-in-the-dark pumpkins 😄!) You can't see it very clearly here but the pantograph is the same pumpkin pattern that we used on my Pippi Longstocking patchwork pumpkin table topper only at a larger scale. The variegated thread shows up beautifully against those black scrolls.








Halloween quilt: QuiltBee
And the binding is perfect too. She used the 'check' that was included as one of the border and it works brilliantly to finish it off. Now all she needs are a few ghosts and goblins to come knocking on her door.

Happy Halloween everyone, particularly the Queen of Halloween!....M