Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cookie Monster!

In September, Dave and I went on vacation to Gloucester and Maine. In Bar Harbor, Maine, we stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast place, The Atlantean Cottage. While we were there, I got a few ideas about cookies. . . .

You see, each evening, our B&B hosts put out a tray of home-baked cookies in the butler’s pantry.

Typically, we’d be out and about for dinner or whatever, and once we got back to the B&B, we’d grab a decaffeinated hot beverage and a cookie or two and head up to the room to settle in. Yum!

At breakfast, I got into a conversation about the cookies. The chef clued me on a couple of hints, that seem so obvious - you know, one of those, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that moments.

He said for starters, most bakers don’t cream the butter and sugar enough when they are mixing the dough. No less than 10-15 minutes, he said. Okay, I can do that.

It’s the next part that was the face-palm moment. He said that he makes up the batter, makes up a small batch for the evening, then drops the rest of the cookies onto a tray covered in waxed paper and freezes them. Once frozen, he drops them into a zip-type storage bag, then bakes the one or two dozen for the evening. Wait, what?

I love baking cookies, but I don’t do it that much, because I really don’t want to have all those cookies around. My sweet tooth is bad enough, but Dave can inhale a double batch of chocolate chip cookies in a few days (Don’t tell him I told you that!) (Notice how I’m 100% blaming him for any extra cookie consumption around here . . . *a-hem!*)

So I decided to put the process to the test. Because who doesn’t like a couple of freshly baked homemade cookies now and again?

I usually make the standard Toll House cookie recipe from the side of the bag. With one exception. To give the cookies a bit more structure I add one cup of flour to the recipe. I also eliminate the salt if I’m using salted butter.

Following Brad’s (the B&B chef) advice, I mixed and mixed the butter and sugar before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Then dropped the cookie dough onto a baking sheet - but only about 12-15 - one sheet full, enough for the evening and lunch the next day.

Mmm. Yum. Fresh cookies. But just enough, not trays and trays.

Then I measured out and dropped the remainder of the batter onto a waxed-paper covered baking sheet.

Then put the whole tray into my freezer. About an hour or so later, I popped them into a zip-bag and put a piece of tape with temperature and cooking time on the resealable bag.

Oh my goodness! Fresh cookies. And just enough for the two of us. Awesome.

Turns out, works just the same for snickerdoodles.

I now have three different kinds of cookies stored in my freezer all ready to defrost and pop into the oven.

Now, let’s hope the power doesn’t go out!

(Or maybe we should hope that it does, but just long enough to defrost the dough, then back on in time to bake the cookies!)

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A-a-a-all Aboard!

Over the weekend, I was guest speaker at the Hope Lutheran Fall Quilt Show in Arcade, New York. My host was Sandy Pirdy and her fabulous crew at Creekside Fabrics, Quilts and Yarn.

Sandy’s must-visit shop is situated exactly adjacent to Clear Creek.

Every time I visit, one step inside the door, and I feel like I am home. The staff is just the best - friendly and helpful - especially when there is glow-in-the-dark fabric to examine (little inside joke there, sorry - couldn’t resist!)

On Friday, I was invited to do some demonstrations at the shop. Here, folks are gathered around to see how I made the pieced fabric buttons for the Button Collection Pillow . . .

The pillow pattern is from ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch, using the Mini Scrap Grid interfacing and Quiltsmart Zig Zapps Circles.

Later, we headed over to the Hope Lutheran Church, a few blocks away. Quilts representing a pattern series entitled Women of The Bible were hung in the church sanctuary.

And lots of quilts in the main gathering/lobby area. This one made by Nancy Bush and its bird and bird house theme naturally grabbed my attention!

And of course, a quilter’s gotta eat. Fabulous chicken and biscuit lunch prepared and served by the church members throughout the weekend. Super yum!

After my talk, the quilts were draped over the alter rail in the church sanctuary for closer inspection.

And a little Arcade history: if you visit Arcade you simply *must* visit the Arcade and Attica Railroad! And be prepared to travel back in time.

All you have to do is step foot inside the station and you feel as if you’ve entered another era. The model train above sets the stage appropriately.

Grab some popcorn!  . . .

 . . .  and climb aboard one of several 1920s coaches attached to a vintage locomotive steam engine.

The train runs regularly from June to October with a variety of special-themed events during all four seasons. The train makes two hour trips from Arcade to Curriers.

A sneak peek inside one of the coaches tells me that these folks are in for a fun ride!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take the trip with these fine folks, so I simply must plan to return to Arcade soon!

Many, many thanks to all those who made my trip to Arcade memorable!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Loud and Clear

A few weeks ago, while I was on vacation, this blog featured a little bundle with the goodies to make itty-bitty log cabin ornaments.

I’ve been working on mine diligently between a couple other items on the sewing table these last few weeks. They are coming along, but I still have quite a few more to make. . .

Last week, after I did an inventory of the fabric that was leftover from the first round of  orders and shipments, I discovered that I had three kits left - they were sold within the first hour or so after I mentioned it the newsletter.

I hear you Loud and Clear

Since then I’ve had a couple of requests for the pattern by itself and more bundles. This is an easy fix. They are now both available in the shopping cart. The bundle no longer includes the fabric — that’s gone. But there is no reason you can’t substitute with a quick run to the fabric shop for some holiday prints (you gotta love an excuse to make a run to the quilt shop! - AKA F.A.R.T. - Fabric Acquisition Road Trip) Or sub-in something from your stash or scrap bins for these little cuties.

So here we go. One last time (I promise!)

The bundles are available here. Includes pattern, Mini Clover Wonder Clips, 12 3-1/2” fusible foam batting squares, and the Mini Log Cabin Trimmer.

The patterns are now available on their own here. Note that the pattern more or less requires the Mini BlocLock Log Cabin Trim Tool.

Since I really like tools that can be used for more than one purpose. How about using that little Mini Log Cabin tool to make a mock flange? Logs start out as 7/8” strips, then get sewn and trimmed into the little ornaments. Why not start with long strips that are 7/8” wide then sew them to your quilt where you want a flange - in between borders for example. Trim then add the binding or next border.

Skip the long flange accent strip that is folded then sewn in. Those dern flanges always get a mind of their own when the quilt gets washed anyway. If the “flange” is sewn in like a border, it’ll behave! Trimming with the groove in the ruler keeps the strip even - no wibble-wobbling all over the place. Plus, your long arm quilter will kiss your feet!

Keep the questions and comments coming. I’m here for you! *Wink!*

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, October 5, 2017

It's a Numbers Game

A couple evenings ago, I got together with my quilty friends. We  - two or three of us - try to get together about once a month for a pot luck dinner, some hand-sewing, and good gab.

On this particular evening, we each worked on very different projects. One of the three of us at this particular gathering was binding a quilt that has been in the to-finish pile for a very long time. Quite an accomplishment,right?

Then she mentioned something about the eight corners of the quilt’s binding . . . wait, 8?

Then I got to thinking about the numbers games I play with myself to keep motivated, especially as a big project is getting complete.

The countdown

As I complete a quilt top, when the end of the project is in sight, I start to count down the number of seams to sew. For example. Once the quilt center is done, if the quilt has two borders, sewn traditionally, then there are eight seams left - side inner border - two of those, add two more for the top and bottom inner border, two side outer borders, and the two borders for the top and bottom outer borders. Eight.

That same quilt, with mitered borders would add four more seams to sew to get to the finish line once the quilt center is done: One to connect each of the inner and outer borders (4), one to connect the center to the all four borders (4), then the miters, one at each corner (4). Twelve total.

Every seam sewn, means one less seam to the finish line.

The Five Sides of a Quilt

Five? Wait. . .what? Well, when you sew a BINDING on a quilt that has four sides, you start in the middle of one side, then add the binding to three more sides, then sew the binding to remainder of the first side (or in my weird mind) the fifth side of the quilt.

A Baker’s Dozen

I do a similar countdown when I’m quilting, either by hand or by machine. I usually quilt block by block. Especially when there are lots of blocks in a quilt, I start counting down when I get maybe about half way through the blocks.

I’m working on the quilting on a pretty large quilt right now. When I finish this next block, I’ll have 12 blocks to go. But rather than say that unlucky number 13, I like to think I have a bakers dozen left to the finish line. Superstitious? Me? Nah (well, maybe a little.)

Eight Binding Corners

Back to the eight-cornered binding thing. This took me a minute or two to understand. . .

As you sew the binding to the quilt front, each corner is mitered. That’s four corners.

Then as you sew the binding to the back of the quilt - either by hand or machine, there are the other four corners to miter and attach for a total of eight.

Like any goal - reaching a finish line, hiking a mountain or trail, or reaching an ideal weight or exercise goal. Those last few numbers can make all the difference in keeping it fun and keeping it real.

What numbers games to you play to keep your head in the quilty game?

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford