March Blocks, Part 1

It’s already almost the end of March and I have not yet finished the quilt blocks I’m supposed to have done for the month. However, I did get half of them done this week, so I thought I should post about them and share what I’ve finished.

As I looked at what was ahead of me this month, there was a lot of paper piecing. And, the more I come to do paper piecing, the more I appreciate the work that goes into paper piecing. One of the patterns was a relatively simple string block. P.S. I Quilt’s Block ‘o’ Strings was a fitting tutorial with it being St. Patrick’s Day this weekend and all. We made blue and yellow blocks with a cream stripe through the center of it. This was fun to make and I enjoyed it overall. The picture turned out pretty good, as I was able to take it during the sunlight we had on Sunday afternoon.

 

The other quilt block I finished up for March was a Vintage Liberation

block. The person in charge for the month put up a tutorial on her blog. I’m struggling because I know I have lots of bright fabric scraps, but I haven’t been able to locate them in my scraps, so these are turning out a lot darker than I anticipated but it will come together and I’ll find my brighter scraps. This block was fun to make. It called for some random pieces of fabric. Try it out when you want something slightly different to fulfill your scrap block.

 

Christmas Quilt Finished (with Binding and all)

When I was home over break, I got the Christmas Quilt Back which I had originally finished right after Christmas and taken home for machine quilting. I hadn’t necessarily planned to keep the quilt originally, but now it seems the person who machine quilted it is hanging up her quilting and retiring. This is such sad news for me for a couple of reasons.

The woman who quilted this quilt is also the person who I first learned to quilt from years and years ago. With my first easy stair step path quilt, I learned how to cut, press, and sew ¼ inch seams from her. And now, I am unable to rely on her to finish my quilts any further. Which, I want to say, I commend her for hanging up her machine and taking the time to do what she wants, finish her own projects, and not do this for other people.

However, it left me feeling a bit sentimental as I was sewing the binding onto the Christmas quilt and celebrating the work she had done on the quilt. I now feel I want to keep this quilt which she helped to finish one last time and look forward to hearing about her next projects in life as I keep moving forward with projects.

 

Postage Stamp Quilt is Finished!

Spring break has ended. But, I finished a few great projects when I was on break (aka I left

work after 8 hours of work)… I finished up two quilts which I had been putting off for quite some time and will share a little bit about

the stories of these quilts at the moment. What had become the bane of my existence, the Postage Stamp QuiltAlong, took much longer than was necessary or anticipated. Rather than following along with the plan, I let other things get in the way and only finish up stuff when I have some time.

Nonetheless, I finished up the quiltalong and am happy with the results. I have my back sewn together and

now it’s waiting for the machine quilter. It was on these days I dreamed of winning the lottery, machine quilting away and running the longarm machine. Scary, exciting, and wonderful. All at once, right? So, if anyone wants to sell me

their longarm, I’d love to learn. I just need the house, money, and willingness to take a risk necessary to move forward with this.

For now, enjoy the Postage stamp quilt, made with a Jelly roll of Eva by Basic Grey for Moda and a roll of off-white.

 

African Chicken Stew

I’ve been working to clean out my fridge, freezer and cupboards. At the end of May, I need to move someplace other than where I’m living currently. I have yet to decide where that will be, but at the moment, I am fully aware that it is away from here. My current home has been re-rented, and I will find a place to live when it is time to do so. Until then, I am trying to reduce the amount of “stuff” I need to move with me in order to be more efficient.

This weekend, I was taking inventory. I’ve been looking at what is there and needs to be used up and assess my cooking habits based on that. While I was looking at the freezer, I found some rotisserie chicken from before that needed to be used up. I also found tomato paste and peanut butter. And I recalled a recipe I made last year from Kalyn’s Kitchen, a great food blog. So, I decided to make it and adjust a few things along the way.

West African Chicken and Peanut Stew with Chiles, Ginger, and Green Onions
(Makes 4-6 servings, recipe adapted from150 Things to Make with Roast Chicken and 50 Ways to Roast It by Tony Rosenfield.)

1-2 T olive or canola oil
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 tsp. finely minced jalapeno
salt to taste (I used about 1/4 tsp. sea salt)
1 tsp. chile powder
1 cup chicken stock (chicken broth from a can is fine)
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
2 T tomato paste
1 T cider vinegar
3 cups diced, cooked chicken
fresh ground black pepper to taste
3-4 green onions (scallions) thinly sliced

Finely chop the red onion, ginger, and jalapeno, and roughly chop the chicken. Heat oil in a heavy pan, add finely diced onion, ginger, and jalapenos, season with salt, and saute about 2 minutes. Add the chile powder, stir into other ingredients, and saute about 1 minute more.

Add chicken stock, peanut butter, tomato paste, and apple cider vinegar, stir, and bring to a slight boil. As soon as it starts to boil, lower heat to a very gentle simmer, add roughly chopped chicken, gently stir to combine, and let simmer 10-15 minutes.

While mixture simmers, wash, dry, and slice green onions. After 10-15 minutes, gently stir again if the oil from the peanut butter has separated. Serve hot, with a generous handful of green onion slices on each serving.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

One of the most delicious items I have found myself craving as of late and which I am always seeking for the best recipe ever is a Pulled Pork Sandwich. I make them a couple times a year for different events. One event I’ve made them for annually is John Deere Day. For most folks, John Deere Day is a little known holiday. In my family, however, it is a kind of big deal. My dad owns the John Deere dealership in the town in which I grew up. When my sister had to name her favorite holiday as a kid in Kindergarten, she selected John Deere Day. I don’t know why the holiday is significant in our lives at all, really. The so-called “holiday” is customer appreciation day at the store. Generally, we serve pork sandwiches, root beer floats, potato chips, and baked beans. It’s morphed slightly throughout the years, but these are the basics of the day. Customers come in, eat a good meal, kids sit on tractors, and we go home four hours later. In my life, I believe I’ve only missed one John Deere Day.

I never intended to attend every John Deere Day, but gradually they became more important to me, and less important to others. It was a great way to do a little socializing, see some family, and spend some time with my family. For the last few years, I work the morning and drive home in the afternoon to attend the day. Before I head home, I make lunch for anyone who wishes to partake. Note that this is a three hour drive each way, so it takes quite a bit of time to head to my home town, especially when doing a roundtrip visit.

In homage to all that John Deere Day is, mostly a recognition to my family, I cook for my co-workers and make all green and yellow things. Since John Deere Day takes place in the summer, I get to make lots of fresh vegetable salads and things of this nature. One staple, however, is pulled pork sandwiches, because it’s the tradition of it all. And, because John Deere Day is in the summer, I make the food when students aren’t around.

A couple of weeks ago my students were doing a selection meeting for our programming board and I decided to cook for them with all of the evenings they would be putting in for the selection of next year’s board. And, for something quick and easy, I made pulled pork sandwiches, cheesy hashbrowns, and salad.

The best part of the situation is that the Pulled Pork Recipe I use is from the John Deere version of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. If you’re looking for a great recipe, I highly recommend it. Pick it up and check it out. It makes for a great, un-saucy, delicious sandwich.

pork sandwiches

Pulled Pork Sandwich

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder blade roast
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup beef broth

Trim as much fat from meat as possible. In a small bowl combine garlic, coriander, cumin, oregano, onion powder, salt, pepper and red pepper; rub into the meat. Place meat in a 3 1/3- to 5- quart slow cooker; add beef broth. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high heat setting 4 to 5 hours.

Remove meat from liquid with a slotted spoon; discard excess fat from cooking liquid, reserving liquid. Separate fat off of meat with 2 forks and discard fat. Shred the meat using the forks to pull through it in opposite directions. Stir in enough of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten the meat.

Back in the Saddle (almost)

The past few days, during spring break, it’s been hard to stay at work all day. There aren’t students around en masse. I know the students will return soon, and so this is my chance to take time for me. Last year at this time, I was leaving to go running, as I was training for a half marathon. This year, without an ambitious goal, I’m waiting for actual spring and then will embrace the outdoor run once again. I felt good when I was running, but I neglected to maintain running without it being an ongoing thing. Rather than taking care of myself, I’ve been focusing on my work. Which is meaningful in so many ways. But, life has gotten out of balance.

But, with the weather starting to shift, I’ve downloaded some new music, started to get my podcasts ready, and cannot wait to get out there again. I know sometimes I can say I’m going to do something and then not follow through, but I have every intention of making myself into a runner yet once again. I know the 3-5 distance was when I felt good about myself and loved what I was doing, so that’s going to be the new focus.

So, what I mean to say is: get ready. Posts are coming regularly. And I will be getting my running on ASAP, especially if days keep being nice like this.

How do you get excited to run when you’ve taken a long time off? Is it necessary to sign up for a race in order to get going?

 

Wildflower Quilt Finished!

Do you remember back in January when I finally started a quilt kit I had picked up months (years) ago at Gruber’s Quilt Shop? I had marched along right at the beginning of the year, getting the blocks mostly done. Then I put my sewing machine away for weeks and neglected to move forward with it?

Well, a couple weeks ago I finally pulled out the sewing machine and made it a priority to get rid one of my “working on it” bags and finished this up. I am taking it home to perhaps ask the woman in my hometown to machine quilt it so that I can move forward and sell it in my etsy shop. I’ve got three or four quilts with a top done, but without having finished it up. I’ve been working on this quilt and another one which I think turned out well enough I could ask someone else to machine quilt it and then get it finished up to clear up some more space. I’m trying to get a few things done because I’m excited about the other projects I have waiting in my apartment/craft closet and I want to get them done to move onto the next thing.

So, I’m happy to announce the Wildflower quilt is finished. The blocks are sewn together, the borders are on. I am taking it home with me this weekend to leave to be finished (read: sewn together completely). It’s great to have it done and be able to take one more thing home to finish up.

The fabric came together great. I wish the fat quarters had been a little bit different, but it worked out nicely. I really liked the red, brown, and other bold colors. I have no complaints whatsoever about it. It was a great kit and turned out really nice in the end. Overall, I’m happy with it. The pattern might end up being one of my go-to patterns as far as ease overall. Which makes me wonder, what is your go-to pattern?