Tuesday, June 17, 2008

K-11, H-1

K-11, Columbine, and
H-1, Peek-a-boo.
Two new Dear Jane blocks completed over the weekend. Both of these were foundation-piece-and-go! I'm not quite sure about the Joel Dewberry print in the second block, but I think it'll all blend in.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Up in the tree

Friday the thirteenth is probably not the best day to be climbing a ladder, but it's time to pick the sour cherries so up the ladder I went. The cherries are another beautiful thing about summer on the farm. The sour cherry tree seems tiny when you look at it from the ground, and indeed much of it was cut away last fall because it was rotting. But once you climb up between the limbs, there are cherries upon cherries. Too many to pick, and most of the reddest and juiciest ones too high for anyone but the birds to reach.

In fact, the birds squawked and fought while I picked, eager for me to go inside to the pitting machine so they could continue their feast. This pitcher represents about 25 minutes of picking, enough for two sour cherry pies. My grandmother thinks that this might be one of the last years for this tree, as cherry trees only live so long before they give out. I told her she'd better plant another tree right quick! The pies she makes from these cherries have been a part of my summer equation for almost as long as I can remember. Her recipe is simple (and probably originally came from the back of some long-ago box of tapioca), but oh-so-delicious with fruit you've picked yourself.

Granna's Sour Cherry Pie

  • 4 cups sour cherries
  • 2 2/3 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons kirsch
  • Double pie crust
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons cold butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

  • Mix cherries, tapioca, sugar and kirsch together in a large bowl. Let stand 15 minutes.
  • Pierce bottom pie crust and brush with beaten egg white. Bake for five minutes to set.
  • Pour cherry mixture into pie crust and dot with butter.
  • Affix top crust; vent.
Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees and then turn heat back to 350; bake 40 minutes more. This is a very juicy pie. It bakes best on a jelly roll pan covered in foil. For best results, let stand until almost room temperature before serving with vanilla ice cream. Yum!

K-8 Springbrook Park

Trying to catch up on the Dear Jane quilt-along. Here's my latest block, K-8 Springbrook Park. Just a nice foundation-pieced jaunt. I wish that I could find a better way to photograph these so that there wouldn't always be little cut-off corners and such. Oh, well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The berries are coming, the berries are coming! And finally, hay.

Blueberries. This is the third year that these bushes have been at the farm, and each year they make me so excited, even though the three bushes will probably only yield a couple of pints of berries that will all end up on my grandfather's morning cereal. They're just so stunning, and the few berries that will make it into my mouth will be warm from the sun and so sweet.
And raspberries. These bushes produce even fewer berries over the season, and most of these are eaten without a thought by the barn manager. In fact, I had to call my grandmother this afternoon to remind her to go and pick the ripe ones early in the morning tomorrow before the barn manager arrives. I ate one of these today (shh!), and its flavor was tart and bright.

There are also strawberry plants at the farm, left over from a long-gone strawberry pot (imagine!) that I planted five years ago. They spilled out of the pot and took up permanent residence on the south side of the little house. These have been producing ripe fruit for about a month, but they have to be harvested a little before they're ripe or the bunnies and other rodents take little nibbles out of the sides of each berry and the ants polish the wounded berries off. I did get a good-sized handful of very sweet berries earlier this week. The taste of summer.
And finally, we have hay! So exciting to see those big golden rolls dotting the landscape (and to ride on the green lawn-like fields they leave behind).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer strawberry apron

It's strawberry season! This photo doesn't really do it justice, but this is an apron that I made for my cousin Ellenor's bridal shower last weekend. It was an around the house shower, and I had bar and kitchen. This apron came out really fun and flirty with a lot of swing. I started out with the Sew Easy Reversible Apron pattern from Indygo Junction, but I didn't have quite enough fabric, and the instructions got a little fuzzy, so I mostly winged it. That wool felt strawberry pocket was a last-minute addition that I think really made the whole thing. I used the star embroidery on my sewing machine to make the little black seeds on the fruit. This is one time that I'm glad I traced my pattern (and pattern changes!) out on Pattern Ease, so I can make cute little cocktail aprons like this over and over.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bitty baby booties

Today it rained and rained. Thunder and lighting. We lost power for about three and a half hours this afternoon. We used to have a dog who was very very afraid of thunderstorms. She would hide and shake and wear herself out for the duration of the storm. Grady just looks at me in that stupid (but lovable) Labrador way, saying "what happened to the lights?" Then he goes back to sleep.

I took this dark photo of baby booties in the natural light between waves of the storm. I love to have these on hand at all times. Because they're so tiny, they can be tucked into a regular stationery envelope and sent off to friends around the country at a moment's notice when we hear that a baby has been born. It's also fun to use the ends of sock yarn. With the crazy hand-dyes, they come out so cheerful! More information on flickr.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The muumuu that ate Manhattan

So it's been several years since I've tried to sew any serious clothing for myself. I think I define "serious" in my head as "involving zippers and/or facings/linings". There have been improvised lounge pants and night chemises here and there, along with a couple Simplicity 3835 tops, but there has not been any serious sewing since that terrible Hawaiian print dress that I made in one night before beach week at Myrtle Beach senior year of college.

But with the hot weather coming up, and given the fact that I would gladly wear a simple little dress each and every humid day of the summer given the choice, I decided to break out the fusible interfacing and give it another go. This is my muslin of McCall's 5620, made from some just barely acceptable medium-weight apparel cotton from the sale bin at Hancock's. (I'm not a huge fan of flutter-bys...) But there's a reason I'm not letting you see all of it. I made my regular (read: shockingly large-- really, the pattern industry and the wedding gown people...) pattern size. However... this won't really be a "wearable muslin", as it turned out ginormous. As in, "Honey, does the Volvo need a cover against the elements?"-huge. Sure, I noticed that there was a ton of ease listed on the pattern envelope, but I guess I thought that the pleats would make up for that and make it hang okay. Wrong-o.

Maybe with some heavier fabric it would hang a little closer to the body or something, but as it is, I've made myself a fancy swimsuit cover-up with pretty purple facings. Sigh. If I ever get a bee in my bonnet to make this again, it'll be at least one, maybe two sizes smaller. I mean, even the arm hole openings are huge on this thing. And my seam allowances are near-perfect, I promise...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Baby Quilt 2 of 4: For a girl

So I guess I'm rolling right through the "popular" internet quilts right now, huh? This one is an hourglass quilt for the baby of a friend who's due in September. This quilt was made entirely from stashed materials, which feels pretty good. I used the measurements that AmandaJean gave over at crazymomquilts-- seven blocks by seven blocks, and it's finished at about 35 inches square. These quilts are pretty small, but I think they'll be good for wrapping up a little baby, don't you?
The quilting came much easier on this one (practice makes perfect, I guess), but I think the white Kona cotton must be a little stiffer than some of the other colors. The brown and orange and blue quilt came out of the dryer feeling much softer than this one did. Has anyone else had this experience with the white Kona cotton?
This is probably the best photo of the quilt. I just threw it out on top of the tall grass (yet to be made into hay) at the farm and snapped away. Summer certainly can grow up some good photo assistants!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

One Local Summer: Week 1

Eating local all summer? We're going to try. I've joined One Local Summer this year, after following along with others (mainly Jasmine at Knitting 40 Shades of Green, who lives near me, and Pocket Farmer Liz, who lives in a place where I'd love to live) for a couple of summers. In this challenge, we'll prepare one totally local meal each week.

This first week caught me a little off guard, as our CSA hasn't started up yet this year (next week!), so we headed over to the Arlington Farmer's Market yesterday to rustle up some local grub. The results were delicious, but a little mixed on the strictly local front. Let's just say I've found some holes in my pantry that are going to take a little more digging to fill. All distances below are from my door. Without further ado, we ate:

  • Sauteed chard from Wheatland Vegetable Farms (just up the road from my natal home!) in Wheatland, VA (37.95 miles)

  • A pesto-ish sauce made of garlic scapes from Wheatland Vegetable Farms (37.95 miles) and basil and parsley from the backyard (0 miles)

  • Baby lamb loin chops from EcoFriendly Foods, Inc. (Emerald Family Farms) in Moneta, VA (206 miles)

And for dessert:

Everything was really really yummy, so yummy that I can't pick a favorite element of the meal. But I think I may need to find another source for meat. The 206 miles to Moneta and EcoFriendly Foods is too far for the challenge-- I'm going to try to keep to the 100 mile radius rule if I can. I'll have to see if my cousin Sara has any beef left for by-the-cut orders, and I'll have to go to the Loudoun farmers' markets when I'm out that way to see what they have. That, or eat vegetarian for these meals, as we normally do anyway. This sure was a nice celebration meal to kick off the summer, though.

Local items that I need to pick up:

  • Cheese. I should have bought some at the farmers' market; there was much available. It would have made that pesto tastier.
  • Flour. Duh. (This is my family's business. Those of you who know me in real life are probably laughing pretty hard at me over this one...)

Items that I need to find a local source for:

  • Milk, cream and butter. Anyone have any leads on these? There may have been some at the Arlington market, but if so, I missed it. Earlier this year we found a local buying club for raw milk. I'm sure it's fine and delicious, but I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far yet. I'll stick with pasteurization for the time being.
  • Sugar. I don't know enough about this one, either.

I think that with those ingredients I'll be able to make some pretty spectacular things this summer. I'm looking forward to it!