Saturday, April 12, 2014

HAPPY EASTER AND LOTS MORE!!

HAPPY EASTER! 


By now you know the drill.  The first thing in my house that gets decorated or changed for the season is my hutch.  I find it's easier to start with one big piece of furniture when you're crazy enough to keep doing this!


A few Saturday afternoon's ago I stayed home.  That is rare for me but it was raining and I just didn't feel like doing errands.  I bought some very soft wool at the Quilted Crow in Boxborough, MA recently and ever since have had a really big "itch" to make something with the different colors and patterns.  I haven't had a lot of time to make dolls lately so I decided to spend the afternoon making some bunny rabbits!  I set up a little assembly line of cut out pieces and whipped these guys up.  The great part about being a doll maker is I have loads of little embellishments so I'm equipped with just about anything a good imagination can come up with! 


A few years ago I made the chocolate bunny below.  He's made of velveteen. 


The gold bunny below is a mistake.  He was supposed to be a Prim but he just didn't make it so instead of throwing him out I decided to "guild" him.  I sprayed him with gold paint and let him hang out to dry.  Next year when I resurrect him I think I'll embellish him.  He needs something to break up all that gold.


I have posted the rabbit quilted wallhanging before but I want to zoom in closer so you can see...


just how neat he is.  Someday I WILL bring him to life.  He's too adorable to leave flat on fabric.  He's embroidered and then filled in with crayon.  This is a really fun way to create art.  Best of all if you chose the right motif anyone of any age can do it.




I love rabbits.  I LOVE pigs, frogs, monkeys, etc. etc.  My daughter Susan's adorable boyfriend Luke reminded me how much I love Peter Cottontail when he brought over a book of his father's ancestors.  I readit from cover to cover.  His family roots are in Martha's Vineyard and the Cape.  I love both places so I found all of the information fascinating.  While I was reading about the Burgess family Luke pointed out Thornton.  We all have a story and our ancestors probably had a better one.  Now I'm even more inspired to dig up my family roots.  Maybe someday when I'm retired if I can pull myself away from quilting and doll making I'll try to trace our family history too.  

According to Wikipedia

Thornton Waldo Burgess (January 14, 1874 – June 5, 1965) was a conservationist and author of children's stories. Burgess loved the beauty of nature and its living creatures so much that he wrote about them for 50 years in books and his newspaper column, "Bedtime Stories". He was sometimes known as the Bedtime Story-Man. By the time he retired, he had written over 170 books and 15,000 stories for the daily newspaper column.

"Peter Rabbit Creator, Thornton Burgess, Dies", The Washington Post, 7 June 1965

His story is beautiful.  He was a gifted, talented nice man.  He would be very proud of his nephew.


Below is the wreath I promised to post last time we talked.  I like the look of large wreaths on front doors when a house is set far away from the street.  When I bought the materials for this wreath I didn't have a clue what I was going to do with them.  The flowery bushes are silk which I didn't realize at the time.  After I saw the price it was too late.  I had already decided on them and they were staying.  The burlap bow adds a little country feel and compliments the color of the door.  The berries on the bushes are a dark burgundy, not a bit Christmasy.  When putting this wreath together, I wanted something that would get me through the period between taking the Christmas wreath off the door and spring.  Soon I'll take this down and save it for next year.  Before I make a lot of things I always tell myself when the season's over I'll take everything off and reuse the base.  So far that's never happened.  I thought I would do it with my wine bottle lights and every wreath I've ever made but if they come out even close to what I envisioned I leave them alone.  I probably would never be able to recreate anything like it again.



I can't leave without sharing a fantastic recipe.  Kristen made these bars a few weeks ago and they were to die for!!  All I could think of when I was eating too much was what a great spring and summer dessert.  Now we have to make them again soon! 

Strawberry White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars
strawberry white chocolate cheesecake bars Strawberry White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars
Ingredients
  • 24 Oreo Cookies
  • 1 Stick of Butter Melted
  • 9 oz White Chocolate (I used chips)
  • 2-8 oz Packages of Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 2-Eggs
  • 1 Tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/2-3/4 cup Strawberry Preserves OR Jam (I used a Smuckers Seedless)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350Last weekend I was at the Arts Expo in New York City.  I have a lot to share but need to give that experience it's own quality time in a future post.
  2. Line a 8x8 baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on all sides.
  3. Add Oreo Cookies to a Food Processor or place in a ziplock bag to crush.
  4. Add melted butter and mix well.
  5. Add to prepared pan.
  6. Press firmly to line bottom completely.
  7. Add Cream Cheese, Sugar and Vanilla to a medium sized bowl or stand mixer and mix until smooth.
  8. Melt your chocolate in microwave heating in 30 second intervals and then stirring.
  9. Add all but 1/8 of a cup of your melted chocolate to cream cheese mixture and blend.
  10. Add eggs one at a time making sure to blend well.
  11. Pour mixture over crust.
  12. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the center of your cheesecake is almost set.
  13. Let cool for 15 minutes,
  14. Spread your preserves/jam over the top of your cheesecake.
  15. Drizzle remaining chocolate over your cheesecake (I used a ziplock bag to pipe).
  16. Place in refrigerator for 4 hours.


I love holidays but there will always be a part of me that is sad because I don't have my parents and beloved pets.  I find a lot of comfort surrounding myself with things that remind me of them.  I am grateful my mom saved so many beautiful things for me.  I'm doing the same thing for my daughters.  This is her toaster cover from the 50's.  It is so tiny I can't imagine anything that small toasting bread!  I wonder if the slices of bread were smaller!!  It's beautifully embroidered with that 50's pink - the same color as the poodle skirts and everything else wonderful about that era.  It took a long time to find a frame I thought worthy of it and in the end I'm happy with plain and simple to bring out it's beauty.


One last thing I would like to share.  At quilt group last week Mary Ellen commented on my last blog.  She has been to the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA.  She has been just about everywhere exciting and interesting.  She is a master quilter and her work is gorgeous.  She told us there is a new book out titled The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott.  I'm sure it's a good read because I read her last book The Dressmakers and it was wonderful.

I have lots and lots to share in my upcoming posts so please stay-tuned!



Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Visit to New England Quilt Museum and more...

A Visit to the New England Quilt Museum and more...


This little museum is located in Lowell, MA.  It's location is very near Boston.

  As usual, my family was reluctant to go inside but once they saw all of these amazing quilts they quickly got interested.  I hope the photos below inspire you.  I wish I had more time to be creative because I came away with so many great ideas for projects!


Below are some of my favorite quilts.




























I think these Victorian dresses were the March exhibit.  Imagine wearing these while you quilt!


Or go out for the evening,


or a special occasion.  


Upstairs there are two small rooms with quilts displayed on the beds and walls.  



The textured quilts below are awesome.  I'd like to spend more time there to try to figure out how they're made.






Now we're getting to my favorite quilts.  I love crazy quilts.  These are exceptional.  


This was my favorite until...


I saw this!!  These owls must be machine embroidered.  I want this!


My other great love is houses.  I will make a house quilt or a couple of blocks at some point in my life I HOPE!


The texture of this quilt is more like a rug.  These houses look like the free house pattern that's all over the internet.  I have it.  


Get ready...


My favorite is below!  I love this denium quilt.  I can't imagine anyone having so much patience to make this.  It's machine done so maybe it wasn't as complicated as it looks.  This quilt inspired me to buy a complicated book on quilting houses.  I'll keep you posted if I do anything with it!

 

If you're thinking of taking a trip to New England Quilt Museum I strongly recommend you stop at The Quilted Crow in Boxborough, MA.  Here's the website: www.thequiltedcrow.com/  It's about 15 minutes on 495 from the museum and it's amazing.  I have been to many many quilt shops since I began quilting and this by far is up to about a ten on my scale.  If you love Prims, reproduction, French General fabric, etc. etc. this is the shop to visit.  There are loads of wool and felting patterns and kits, bolts and bolts of fabric of every kind, fat quarters, charms, jelly rolls etc. Books and quilts are everywhere in this very old big yellow house.  As soon as you walk in you will get lost in all the little nooks full of all kinds of neat quilt notions.  I'm going back as soon as possible.  AND I'm going to start researching what kind of patterns use French General fabric.  I am totally in love with it!

SO...

If you're staying over, I suggest going to the Taj Boston for a drink.  It's located on
15 Arlington St, Boston, MA 02116

It's beautiful inside.  We've been going there for years and it always reminds me of the pubs we stopped at in England. It overlooks Boston Commons so if you get there early enough and snag a table in the window you can people watch too.


They make the best martini's!




The Taj is located just across the street from Boston Commons.  When you leave the Taj and walk across the park you will find Charles Street.  There is a fabulous restaurant there called Toscano which is located on 47 Charles Street.

Here's the website if you'd like to take a look.

www.toscanoboston.com/


I'm looking forward to strolling through Boston Commons in the warmer weather!  Two weeks ago it looke and felt like we were in Syberia!  Happy Spring!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

My mother-in-law was 100% Irish.  Her mother was a Corcoran from County Cork and her father was an O'Hare.  Through the years I've tried to keep traditions in our house and what better holiday to be part of but St. Patrick's Day.

My hutch is the first thing that get's decorated.  I don't have a lot of St. Patrick's Day decorations but what we have are small treasures we've collected over the years.

I have no idea where I acquired these Leprechaun flour sack dishtowels.  For some reason I don't think they come from my mother-in-law because I can't remember her ever giving them to me BUT I can't imagine them coming from my mother either because my parents didn't celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I was never home on that day.  Like almost everyone else of my generation I was on a barstool at Malone's having one of the best nights of the year.  Maybe that's why I can't remember!  Anyway, I always forget about them but somehow they magically appear every year in time to be displayed.


This is Paddy O'Leary.  I made him years ago for my husband.  He's out and about all over our house the whole month of March.  Over the years many people have wanted to buy him but he's just too precious to ever leave us and I know I could never recreate him.

 

I checked the internet and eBay for anything like these  flour sack dishtowels and came up with nothing so I'm figuring they're worth something.  As with everything I own, I would never part with them.  Once treasures enter my house they rarely leave.


I made the potholder/hot pad below many years ago when I was a stay-at-home mom.  That's when I had time to make all kinds of neat things.  I enlarged an internet clip of a Shamrock.  Then I printed it out, xeroxed it and cut the pattern out.  I keep all sizes of batting from past projects.  I found a little square and placed one piece of batting and one scrap of Insulate (a heat resistant material found at Jo-Ann's) together and put the copy of the cutout pattern on top. Next I traced around the pattern and cut that out.  Then cutting around the pattern again, I trimmed about 1/2 inch so it will fit easily into the middle of the Shamrock.  There's no need to be exact.  Next I took 2 different scraps of Irish themed fabric and sewed right sides together leaving enough space to turn the fabric and slip the batting and Insulate into the opening.  The Insulate should be right side up because that's where it comes in contact with the hot vessel.  I folded the trimmed piece to get it inside the Shamrock and then straightened it out and sewed the opening closed.  I used embroidery thread (now I like pearlized thread better) and buttonhole stitched around the Shamrock in green for a more decorative look.


When everyone was home for dinner I used to make a big St. Patrick's Day feast.  I would serve corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, scones and beer.  For dessert I always made a white cake with coconut frosting.  Now because we are almost never all home together, I mostly go to the deli and pick up corned beef and fresh rye bread.  I'll make a variation of a Reuben with homemade coleslaw and thousand island dressing.  No holiday ever goes unnoticed in my house-I've just tweaked the menus. 

When I met my husband he had his own apartment and he was a pretty good cook.  I should have let him continue to cook but I made the fatal mistake of taking over that chore.  After that like everything else I owned it.  He brought some really good cookbooks to our new house and I've tried a lot of the recipes and some of them are still our favorites.  Below is a really good Irish Soda Bread recipe.

  At the time I wrote on this recipe making homemade buttermilk was a new procedure for me.  It's very easy.  For instance, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of buttermilk (I like to do this in a 2 cup measuring cup but a small bowl will work fine) add 1 tablespoon of cider vineager to the cup of milk.  Give it a quick stir and let it sit for 5 minutes.  It will bubble up.  When that happens it's ready to use.  You can figure any measurement out by that rule.  Another example, if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of buttermilk, use 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 tablespoon of vineager.  All the other little notes are just my preferences.  The bread is moist and tender and the next day fabulous for toast.  Traditional Irish Soda Bread doesn't have any fat in it but it's also hard as a rock so I would rather cheat a little and be able to eat it!




A few weeks ago I said goodbye to all of my winter decorations.  It took me one whole Sunday to sort all of my pine cones and put each color in their own container in the basement.  I kept everything up a lot longer this winter because it has dragged out so long.  When everything was put away I felt hopeful maybe pretty soon we would see a sign of spring.

I redressed my wine bottles.  This year I'm into burlap and I've found a lot of neat ways to use it.  Next time I'll post my new in-between seasons front door wreath.  


I really like this bottle.  It's on my counter and actually makes me like standing near the stove and cooking!



This bottle sits on my bar.  I have a big peacock feather near the mirror so this little one kind of compliments it.


It's really hard to see this but I attached the seal of the label with a thin rope because it has a saying on it.  The name of the bottle of  Cabernet Sauvignon is called The Dreaming Tree and it's a North Coast 2011.  I love Cabernet and this is a good full-bodied wine which is a perfect pairing with wine and cheese.  The label  reads 

Standing here - The old man said to me - Long before these crowded streets - Here stood the Dreaming Tree


The theme in my sunroom is beachy so I used starfish to dress this bottle.  I hung them with rope and decorated the bottle with a little raffia bow.


I'll light these glasses and bottle all summer when it gets dark.  I have a few more bottles lined up for my husband to drill holes in.  When he does I think I'll decorate those bottles with sand and shells. They will look great outside on the deck IF we ever get outside on the deck again.  I think the last time I was out there was October!



Now that basketball season is over we're really rolling along.  Here's the latest progress on the family room bookcases.  They're starting to look like something and it's very exciting.  This wall has been in renovation since October too!  Lots of things stopped in October.  I'm hoping for a big change in the weather and my family room in the next few months!



Paddy is hanging around waiting for spring too.  


Hopefully next time we visit there won't be any more snow on the ground!