Progress 6

The top ~2/3rds of the quilt center is done.
The top ~2/3rds of the quilt center is done.

This last week I was having brain issues (2 and 2 is five, right?) and couldn’t program, so I got the extra purple/navy blocks done for the top of the quilt.  I also got all the intersections between colors sewn and the sun blocks set into the quilt.

Next is another ~20 orange blocks to complete the orange band under the sun, then I can start on the green, dark navy/dark purple, dark green and black squares.

I talked to Karen (MJK Designs) about using silk organza to produce the evergreen tree shading on the left of the quilt but she says it won’t hold up in a bed quilt.  Back to the drawing board.    I considered stenciling the shaded evergreen tree overlay but think I’m going to have to spray the shading on and use the gold metallic paint stick to stencil on the suggestion of light at the edges and branch tips.  I’ll talk to Marti Carrol when the quilt top ready for this step and see what she thinks.

I was at the Washington Star Quilters Quilt Show on Friday.  A vendor there (Eagles Nest Designs) had a lovely pattern called “Dancing Cedars” that might give the perfect shape for the tree silhouette.  I’ve got her website bookmarked so I can go back there when I get to that point in the development of the top.

There was another vendor at the quilt show selling hand painted scarves for $1500 each.  Definitely outside my price range and not my style, but lovely regardless.

Pack behavior

Despite everything we tried to turn his condition around, we lost Maxter last week after months of slowly declining energy and weight.  I really miss him.  He was easily the most intelligent awesome dog I’ve ever had.

With Max gone the pack is adjusting.  We’re in the midst of power struggles as the girls reevaluate their position in the pack.  Patsy, the lead bitch, is too depressed to pick up Max’s duties.  A lot of the power struggles are due to her failing to exude her normal energy and authority.  Happy has taken to sleeping in the shop on the carpeting; shades of “I’m really just a house dog.”  Chloe is barking at the neighbors instead of watching the drive.  Our doggie world is in chaos.

We had a red tailed hawk almost make off with a chicken this morning.  I had to call the alert.  Patsy was embarrassed.

It will take time, and we may lose a chicken or two, but eventually everyone will adjust so the whole farm is covered.  I’ll wait until spring to see if I want to try and find a replacement for Max.  He’s an incredibly hard act to follow.

Potato Soup and diced onions tip.

By now you’ve figured out I like dead easy one dish foods.  I want to spend half an hour in the kitchen, not two hours and I want things to be de-lish!  Wadly’s very much a meat and potatoes kinda guy.  He has bread and apple sauce with just about every meal, so simple foods work really well for him.  This pan of soup will last us a couple meals and is excellent reheated, even frozen.  It doesn’t keep well in the fridge more than a day, so plan to use it or freeze it.

Potato soup . . . but SO much more.
Potato soup . . . but SO much more.

So here’s my fav potato soup.  The recipe uses kielbasa or smoked sausage, whichever works for you.  I use the Safeway brand beef smoked sausage as it has no soy or gluten.  Safeway’s been coming out with more processed meats without soy, for which I am thankful.

Hillshire Farm and Morrel, eat your heart out.

Put 2 tbsp of butter in a saucepan.  Turn the heat on medium to medium-low.  I’m currently cooking on a small propane  camper stove so I have the burner on high which translates to medium on any “real” stove.   You want to sauté, so adjust your heat accordingly.  If things are burning and sticking, your heat is too high.

Dice some onion.  I’d say half a medium onion or a bit more.  I can’t say exactly how much as I don’t measure.  I’ve added an onion dicing tip at the end of this recipe.

Add the diced onion to the melted butter.  Give it a quick stir.

Dice up some green and red peppers.  You don’t need a lot, say 1/3 to 1/4 of a large green pepper, same for the red.  Add these to the butter and onions.  Give it a quick stir.

Dice up most of the sausage, all of it if you want your potato soup really meaty.   Add it to the sauce pan and give it a quick stir.

Peel and dice a couple carrots.  Add them to the mix in the sauce pan, giving a quick stir.

Peel and dice three small Yukon Gold potatoes.  Continue to give the sauce pan contents an occasional quick stir as you work.

Once all the potato is diced add it to the saucepan.  Give it a quick stir.  As you’re washing up the cutting board, knife and peeler, continue to give the pan an occasional stir.  Once the potatoes start sticking to the bottom of the pan and they look like the outside of the cubes are starting to crumble away, add just enough water to fill in the gaps between the lower layers of bits and pieces in the pan.  Don’t rush adding the water.  You want the potatoes to absorb the taste of the other veges and the meat which it won’t do as well once the water’s been added.  You also want it to absorb as much of the free butter as it can before you add water.  DO NOT add so much water it comes over the top of the bits. You should be able to see the water if you tilt the pan about 20 degrees but not see the water if you’re holding the pan flat.

Once you’ve added the water, give another stir, turn the heat down to low/simmer and cover the pan.

From this point on you can stir occasionally or not.  Once the potatoes are cooked through the mess will look more like an odd white stew rather than soup.  Turn the heat off and add some milk.  You want to add just enough to make it a nice THICK soup but no more.  Give the mix a thorough stir, scraping the bottom really well and put the lid back on.  Let it sit about 20 minutes before serving.  If you’re going to serve it later and want to keep it warm, leave it on the stove on the lowest setting.

Wadly really likes this soup.  I like it because it’s darn tasty and he’s actually eating veges.

Onion dicing tip.

Cut off the stem end
Cut top off
Cut in half lengthwise
Remove skin
Slice starting at top
Stack with smallest slice on top

Slice it like cheesecake

If you want an easy way to dice onion, this is it. The first time I need chopped onion from an uncut onion I prepare it by cutting the top off the onion and just the roots off the bottom.  Cut the onion in half lengthwise and peel the skin off.

Set half the onion cut side down on your cutting board and cut slices crosswise starting at the top of the onion.  Stack three or four slices in a stack with the flat side toward your knife hand and the smallest slice on the top.  Hold the stack with your free hand and cut down through the slices like you’re cutting the wedges of a pie.  You’re done.  That’s diced onions.  Dead simple and really fast.  I only dice the amount of onion I need.  I store both halves of the onion in a ziplock bag in the fridge.  It takes about 10 seconds to have usable diced onions this way.

For me this is a no-tears method of cutting onions.  Since I adopted this technique I haven’t shed a tear chopping onions and I use LOTS of them when I cook.