Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday Updates and a Book Review

Keeping it busy and eclectic here at Carpe Lanam.  Yesterday, I carted some of my handwork from the past year to the Clark County fairgrounds to enter them in the fair:
Argyle socks, BFL spun during the Tour de Fleece, Ladyfern Wingspan (made from my handspun that won the Superintendent's prize in last year's fair!), Feathered Star, Orca bay, Mayan Spring, long shot of Orca Bay, and Jack's Chain.  Last year I had good success with the knitwear and handspun yarn entered in the "Clothing" division, and mediocre success with the quilts I entered.  I chose my quilts carefully this year and I'm cautiously optimistic I may get a blue ribbon on one.  But I don't know, the fair quilt ladies are kind of intimidating.  In a strict, grandmotherly kind of way.  I'm glad I have the blog as my main outlet.

My actual quilting and knitting in progress is at a summer crawl.  I am still working on seaming together the Country Stars quilt but not much farther along.  I am working on the Rosalind summer sweater and the Carnaby skirt and even a little on a many-strand cotton circle of fun rug, but without any new pictures.  The plum saga continues... I was up in the tree picking for quite some time today, I made pflaumenmus, and I expect to be pitting plums from the time I publish this until bedtime.

And now for something completely different:
Book review: Threat Vector by Tom Clancy

I suppose I am not a typical Tom Clancy fan.  But I've been reading his books since the mid '90s, and last week, before the plum onset, I tore through this latest offering in the Jack Ryan techno-thriller saga that began during the cold war with The Hunt for Red October.  Through a series of completely improbable and yet somehow believable (if you've stuck with the series thus far) events, Jack Ryan is now the sitting President of the U.S. and his son, Jack Jr., is involved in ultra-black-ops with "the Campus," an unofficial spy organization, set up by loyal Americans to do the things that the CIA and NSA should do, but can't.  And it's a good thing Jack Jr. and the Campus are on the job, because the U.S. is about to face its worst breach of security ever, and conventional intelligence forces are powerless to stop it.  The threat is cyber-terrorism at an unprecedented level by the statist communist regime in China; the vector by which it approaches is an unexpected but chillingly believable delivery system.  I guarantee you will view internet security in a whole new light after reading this book.

Clancy sets things up carefully and thoroughly.  We are well past page 300 before all major characters are introduced and the complex geo-political situation is fully fleshed out, and we have a clear picture of the villains.  But in no way is this a boring read.  My book light got lots of use as I stayed up late reading, and I thought even the highly technical descriptions of modern air and naval warfare were interesting.  Clancy excels at two things: the technical descriptions of military equipment, procedures, and tactics; and the narration of covert strategy in the intricate maneuvering of spy vs. spy.  He manages to make this interesting for a total civilian like me by having recurring characters deeply involved in the storylines, much more deeply involved than they would be in real life.  Since these characters are at risk, we want to know how they will get out of it, and we care enough to follow along through several hundred pages of technical and sometimes confusing action.  In this sense, it's just as well that his characters are not always three-dimensional.

Actually, Tom Clancy develops only one character: a manly man, a warrior who loves his country and his family equally and without conflict, who always knows the right course and is not afraid to follow it, and who has a cold, steely hatred for the enemies of his country.  Leave the navel-gazing moral equivocation to the characters of The West Wing; that's a liberal's fantasy government; Tom Clancy meets that need for the other half of the political spectrum.  At some point early in his writing career, he was doubtless told he needed to diversify his characters.  So he added Hispanic manly men, Black manly men, honorable and patriotic Russian manly men, and now Asian manly men.  He writes villains well, too: there are ruthless arch-villains like "Center," the man pulling the strings of the cyber-web of terror, and General Su Ke Qiang; and there are weak-willed stooges who are all too easily co-opted to serve them.  It's a bit like a medieval morality play as we watch the temptation and fall of these weak characters, or a Victorian melodrama; we know that the body count will be high by the end of the story, and the flawed characters will repent in dust and ashes.  And that's as it should be.  But the main point is the plot, and the unceasing, testosterone-driven action.

Reading Threat Vector in the aftermath of the NSA scandal and with a layman's understanding of the dangers of hacking, malware, and security breaches, I could appreciate Clancy's prescient insight into the dangers of his parallel universe, which is not all that different from our own.  Twelve years ago, Debt of Honor was in the spotlight as it described a modus operandi very similar to that used by the terrorists of 9/11.  All things considered, I would prefer not to have Threat Vector come true.  The vulnerabilities of the U.S. military and intelligence systems are becoming increasingly well-known; I hope someone somewhere in the Obama administration has picked up this book for some light summer reading and gives it some serious thought.

Caution: language, as always.  Clancy's characters have all apparently learned to swear from sailors, and that has been a constant through all his books.  After the first few pages I stopped noticing, but if it bothers you, it will be hard to ignore.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Design Wall and Stash Update

For Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times, I'm doing that thing I do when I really have made virtually NO progress on any quilt for 2 weeks... I'm letting my Mother-in-law's quilts take center stage.  I pinned a few of them for her last week.
This one is just charming.  It looks like that Granny Square pattern that was wildly popular, but not quite.
And this one is incredible.  It has Drunkard's Path units and 4-patches, and I know my photo is not so great, but she managed to get a really great color progression, without ever having a design wall or large bed to lay it out.  In fact, she says she doesn't even remember much about working on it.  I aspire someday to have enough quilting time so that my quilts all run together in my mind.  I am definitely not there yet.  Still working on that same  Country Stars project that's been up all summer.
The reason I've been neglecting all sewing projects is currently the plum tree.  See this post for a roundup of recipes to make with plums when your plum tree is killing itself with over-productivity.
Daniel checking the sugar and alcohol content of his plum wine.
He also revived the long-neglected sourdough starter and mixed up a batch of bread dough.  Fermentation abounds in our kitchen.
My Saturday's canning: plum-orange jam and plum chutney, along with a gallon bag of dehydrated plums (2 dehydrator loads so far).  I'll be making more jam and maybe a plum cake today.

Stash Report:

Bless me, quilt ladies, for I have definitely fallen off the "stash no fabric" wagon this week.  And I was doing so well, too!  Here's the story of how it happened: There was an estate sale that Steve and I swung by early Friday morning on our way to Treat Vancouver to order cupcakes for Quarta's birthday party: but people were lined up waiting and they weren't opening the doors for a few more minutes, so I said, "Let's just skip this one... they never have anything I like at estate sales around here, like quilting fabric."  So we did.  Then Michelle came on Saturday morning to get some plums, and she said, "There's an estate sale you should really check out... they have lots of quilting fabric!"  And of course it was the same one.  So I forgot about it again until I was driving the kids to the library Saturday afternoon and then stopped.  Quilting fabric still filled the shelves of the sewing room, and was $2 a yard.  I picked out reds first, because I've used a lot of reds in the last few years, and then some neutrals and a navy.  It all came to 20.5 yards.
I really like that red paisley.  I could have bought an awful lot more fabric if I didn't have natural Scottishness working for me, and the knowledge that the kids would not wait forever.  Then a guy was sitting behind me where I was looking over my fabric and he asked, "how much do you think that bin of scraps is worth?"  I assumed he was the husband of one of the other shoppers at first and I hedged with, "It depends on what you wanted to do with it and what kind of quilts you like to make, and how many scraps you already had."  Or something like that.  Then he said, "No, how much is it worth to YOU? Including the bin?" and I realized he wanted me to name my price for the whole big bin.  I said $5 and he put a strip of masking tape over the bin with $5 on it, and the lady working the sale carried it down for me and it ended up in my car.
There are an awful lot of scraps in there... many strips of solid colors, some novelty fabrics, about 4 or 5 half-cut quilt projects, some of them half-pieced.  Some prepared bindings, some leftover bits of binding, some dressmaking scraps and poly-cotton broadcloth, some scraps of batting.  But most of it is scrap-quilt quality and I will have fun sorting through it, eventually.  I gave some of the partly-pieced projects to Quarta to finish.
Enough 9-patches for at least a lap-quilt.  Quarta likes the purples and jewel-tones more than I do, so it will be fun for her.

But the upshot is that I am now in negative numbers for my stash report, and I will need to finish some projects to get out of this hole.  I'm not even going to count the scrap bin, just the actual yardage I purchased.  Fortunately I am soon to finish a top and use some backing I purchased, so maybe I will get back into the black next week.

But it was an epic estate sale!

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 41 yards
Added this week: 21 yards
Added year to date: 49 yards
Net used for 2013: -8 yards
Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 6550 yards.
Yarn added this week: 0 yards (I did ply my silk but haven't measured it yet)
Yarn added year to date: 5800 yards
Net used for 2013: 750 yards

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Randomday: Plum Wrangling and Recipe Round-up

 So, the last few days have consisted largely of wrangling with the plum tree.  It has assumed a character of gargantuan importance in our -- well, my -- domestic life.
I worked first on the branches that had broken or bent down to ground level.  Literally I could break off a 12" twig with one hand and there would be 10 plums on it.  I pruned as I picked.  Many of these plums were not fully ripe and sweet and plump, but still they work well for jam.  Many friends have come and picked up some of our plum bounty for their own purposes.  Others have expressed interest but not shown up.  I will soon send the boys with bags of plums to leave on their doorsteps.
We did host a birthday party yesterday at the Jim Parsley Center for Quarta, Tertia and 8 friends.  Swimming for 2 hours, then pizza, cupcakes and silly-face pictures.
Daniel begins his experiment with wine-making.  Plum wine, of course.  We went to the fascinating Bader's shop Thursday to get supplies.  This is more chemistry than I really want to master but he's interested in the process.  And by the time the wine is ready, he might even be old enough to drink it.

Plum recipe roundup:
I have dehydrated 2 loads of plums so far: they are good for tart, chewy snacks and for school lunches.

I like to cut plums in half and remove the pits, then freeze the halves in quart bags.  They are then great for making pies, cobblers, and many different variations on plum cake or pflaumenkuchen.  I have several recipes pinned on Pinterest and several more in my file, but you can hardly go wrong with these plums, especially if you add cinnamon and enough sugar to overcome the natural tartness. This plum torte recipe is amazing.  Plum cake recipes with sour cream or buttermilk in the batter are nice to complement the tart-sweet flavor of the plums, and give it extra richness.  This rhubarb cake recipe is similar to one I have on file and use a lot with plums instead of rhubarb.  Plums also combine well with blackberries, which are ripe around the same time.

Today I made a batch of plum-orange jam (recipe from the Ball Blue Book).  I added the juice of the orange as well as the grated peel and was generous with the plums (because we have so many).  It made nearly 8 cups.

This afternoon I chopped an entire gallon of plums and made Plum Chutney.  I began with the recipe in the Ball Blue Book but changed and added a few things inspired by this recipe.  It smells like essence of autumn with all the spices, and is good with chicken or pork.  It better be, anyway.  It made 7 1/2 pints.

Plum Chutney

4 quarts pitted, chopped plums
3 large chopped onions (more than called for)
2 C raisins
4 C brown sugar (more than called for because my plums were tart)
2 T brown mustard seed
2 T fresh finely minced ginger
1 T salt
3 C apple cider vinegar
1 T cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1/4 t. cayenne
1/2 t. black pepper
grated rind of 1 lemon

Bring to boil in large stockpot.  Simmer for 1 - 1.5 hours until slightly thickened.  Ladle into pint jars and process 10 minutes in boiling-water canner.

I still have plans for making plum cake of some sort with the fresh plums, and at least one more batch of plum jam, either ordinary plum jam or something like the pflaumenmus I've been hearing about.  Or maybe this one.  Or maybe both! My knitting friend Ilse has convinced me that Germans know some good things about how to use plums.

In between all the plumminess I took the girls and Daniel to the library, and suddenly remembered the estate sale I hadn't had the chance to go to earlier, and ended up buying 20.5 yards of quilting fabric at $2 a yard and made an offer on a bin full of scraps for $5.  And the library was fun, too.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Doings

Quarta's 11th birthday was yesterday.  Bunny ears are always appropriate on such an occasion.
Aunt Kristine and Secundus looked dubious.
The cake was strawberry cake with blueberry frosting.
The poor plum tree is trying to kill itself this year.  Several branches have snapped under the weight of all the plums.  "Self-pruning," we call it.  But it isn't really.
I picked several gallons this morning just by standing where the thicket of broken branches is densest.  Ilse and Amy have taken a bunch; I'm working on filling the dehydrator.  If you are local and want some, let me know and we'll give you as many as you want.
I'm looking up recipes for pflaumenkuchen, pflaumenmus, and even considering attempting to make plum wine.
Nothing says summer like an overabundance of produce, and painting the fence.  Daniel is taking that job.  He's pushing for the winemaking job too.

I was going to do quilting and knitting updates but there hasn't been much of that going on.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tour de Fleece Wrap-up and Stash Report

The Tour de Fleece is over, although my spinning isn't, quite.
I'm pretty pleased with the yarn I spun.  There on the top right is my BFL, and in the center is the hemp that I spun at the beginning of the Tour.  I have quite a bit of singles spun which can't be counted in the total until they're plied.  Top left is one of two bobbins of pure Tussah silk.  At bottom left is the Kuchulu as it was a few days ago.  I finished the spindle spinning today, just a little bit late.

I made a plateful of my Jenkins Kuchulu project.  At 12:00 is the dis-assembled spindle -- isn't she clever?  (I call her Idelette because she is made of tulipwood.  It's a geeky Calvinist joke).  1:00 is the last of the BFL/silk from Dicentra Designs in "Salt Marsh" that has been my project for the last 3 years, approximately.  At 2:30 is the other cop I spun this Tour.  Then there are four little turtle-shaped cops from the last year or year and a half.  Then the 2-ply I made with the 6 or 8 balls I spun even earlier than that.  It's a little emotional to come nearly to the end of this spinning project.  I will ply it on my wheel, probably in the next few weeks.  I have no idea what the yarn will end up as yet.

You can see my stash entry on Ravelry for the Tour de Fleece here, with more extensive photos.

I'm recycling last Monday's design wall picture because I have only sewn a very few more short seams since then.  I can't seem to do both fiber arts and quilting at the same time; I see-saw back and forth between them.  I'm looking forward to actually using some stash soon!
Stash report:

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 41 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2013: 13 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 6550 yards.
Yarn added this week: 550 yards of the finished BFL in "Atlantis"
Yarn added year to date: 5800 yards
Net used for 2013: 750 yards

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Future of Down Syndrome

Some of my more recent followers may not know this, but I frequently blog about Down syndrome and engage in a certain amount of advocacy designed to raise awareness about this genetic disorder that affects so many individuals, including my third child, blogname "Tertia."  She was born with Down syndrome nearly 14 years ago and has taken the world by storm, in her own way, ever since.  I think of her as one of God's spies.  And while my children are too old for me to be primarily a "mommy blogger," I still see Down syndrome advocacy as an important part of my calling.

You may have heard the recent news of a scientific breakthrough that can switch off the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome in a test tube.  While any potential therapies resulting from this are years away, and while we are only beginning to raise the complex ethical questions that will need to be answered before we could go ahead with such therapies (Would it change the essence of the individual?  What are the risks?  How would it be tested? Would you "fix" your child?), there is no denying that this news comes at a critical time. 

I know I keep my blog lighthearted most of the time, but the reality is sobering. We live in an age of medical miracles, when individuals with Down syndrome have the greatest possible expectation of high quality of life and long lifespan. The irony is that fewer children are being born with Down syndrome as a direct result of the prenatal diagnostic tests commonly available now.  With the latest generation of tests designed to target the disorder even earlier in pregnancy, the numbers are dropping alarmingly.  Somewhere between 50% and 95% of parents (the numbers are understandably fuzzy) decide to terminate a pregnancy with a Down syndrome diagnosis.  The reasoning for this is even more fuzzy, but at least in part it must be due to overwhelmingly negative portrayals of Down syndrome by medical professionals and in the media.  Even the media has been turning around in recent years, with concerted campaigns to "end the R-word" and positive portrayals of characters with Down syndrome on shows like Glee (perhaps the only likeable characters, actually).  I don't know what doctors are saying to parents these days, but I strongly suspect they put on their serious face for delivering bad news just as the hospital pediatrician did when he spoke to me nearly 14 years ago.  I encourage medical professionals to follow the lead of Dr. Brian Skotko, who has made it his mission to promote a more well-rounded approach by the medical community that takes positive information into account.

What experts fear is that the pool for potential therapeutic treatments (and for the scientific funding to develop them) will not even exist in the near future, so the treatments won't be developed.  There is a concerted effort in the Down syndrome community to promote positive treatments and counteract the overwhelmingly negative, insensitive, out-of-date information about Down syndrome that is commonly distributed to new parents.  Read the excellent series (perhaps misnamed) A Brief History of Down Syndrome at Down wit Dat, and you will realize that we are only a generation removed from routine institutionalization of people with Down syndrome.  Two generations separate us from Hitler's eugenics/extermination program "Aktion T4," which murdered thousands of human beings on the grounds that they were not fit to live in a perfect society.  It is not melodramatic to say that this generation might see the effective elimination of Down syndrome as a medical specialty.  The individuals will remain, but whether in sufficient numbers to command the attention of the community is doubtful.

It's easy to get cynical when the system only works if you follow the money.  I'm glad that people with Down syndrome tend to be naturally anti-cynical themselves, and act as a kind of antidote to an overly cynical society.  Tertia has benefitted greatly from educational therapies that seem common-sense now, but had to be fought for to put in place.  (And by the way, she just finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on her own). Physical therapy started when she was a baby and is light years ahead of what it was a generation ago.  She was fortunate enough not to need open-heart surgery, but it was there and state-of-the-art, if her heart defects had been any worse.
I think that God's purpose in people like Tertia is not affliction or suffering, but rather a testing of the hearts of those who interact with them.  Mother Teresa reportedly called the disabled "professors of love."  How does our culture do in learning the lessons they teach?  There are heartwarming stories like this one, and heartbreaking stories like the death of Ethan Saylor that highlight just how far we have to go, and how complicated the work is.  I've been working on this blog post for three days now and I know I won't resolve anything by it.  But I'd like it, if you've stuck it out this far, if you would think a bit about how you, personally, can make the world better and not worse for people like Tertia.
Edited 7/23 - Since I wrote this a few days ago I came across a network of Down syndrome blogs and it seemed like a good idea to post this at their blog hop.  Please check out the link for more individual snapshots of what it's like raising a child with Down syndrome.  And I hope to make it a regular feature of my own blog from now on.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Yarning Along

I keep intending to be a more serious blogger in the summer.  It's not like I don't have serious thoughts, about Issues of the Day, Philosophy, Politics, History.  What do you do with your mind while your hands are busy, if not have serious thoughts?  But does anyone ever feel like writing it all down in the summer?  And if so, does anyone feel like reading it?  So I'm blogging with the bare basics of summer fun and may slip in a serious thought or two if the mood strikes.  The Tour de Fleece is first off.  Here is my lion mascot posing with the two skeins of finished yarn I plied yesterday.  About 550 yards of light fingering BFL 2-ply dyed by Frabjous Fibers in the "Atlantis" colorway.  I like the way the teals and copper and alabaster stayed remarkably distinct during the plying.
The Country Stars quilt is coming together since last week, but I have been lazy the last few days - this is the same as Monday's photo.  And I have still not put the Farmer's Wife quilt on the frame.  But I have decided to enter Jack's Chain, Orca Bay, and Feathered Star in the Clark County fair.  All were finished this last year, even if the tops were finished before that.  I'm pleased with the fact that my tops are sitting for a shorter time before machine quilting than before I started blogging.
I am not sure which of three knitting projects I want to commit to, so I split the photo for the yarn-along between two.  (There's also a pair of socks on the needles, but no photo of them yet because they are just toes.)  If I want to knit wool, there's the Carnaby skirt on the left.  And if I want nice soft cotton, it's Rosalind on the right in Green Tea Simply Cotton.

I just finished reading The Pericles Commission, first in a series of mystery novels set in ancient Athens by Gary Corby.  Nicolaos is the middle-class son of a sculptor, but he has ambitions beyond carrying on the family business -- ambitions that may be achievable when Ephialtes, the father of the newborn Athenian democracy, falls murdered at his feet and Pericles, his would-be successor, asks him to investigate the crime.  But politics in Athens is a dangerous business.  Nico is hindered as much as helped by a large cast of real historical characters, including Diotima, priestess of Artemis, and Nico's annoyingly insightful little brother, Socrates.  It's a lighthearted romp and the author does have a gift for bringing ancient history to life.  The cover art and writing style might convince you it's designed for the middle readers that Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries series is aimed at, but no, this is definitely for adults.  I look forward to reading the other two books in the series as soon as I can get them from the library.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Design Wall Monday

I wrestled with the Country Stars blocks and more than half of them are assembled.  The quilt is so large it drags on the floor underneath the design wall and there is a clump of gray Muffball fur from where she has been sleeping on the corner.

Once the body of the quilt is assembled, there will be a 1.5" black inner border and then a 6" red outer border to add.

I made blueberry jam today with the blueberries we picked Saturday.  One pesky jar didn't seal, and I have a scalded spot on the palm of my hand where the jam bubbled out of the pot.  I still need to process the rest of the blueberries - probably a couple gallons worth.  The plums are still a little too tart to harvest, but the zucchini are coming on fast.  Daniel has been scouring the white picket fence with TSP/bleach in preparation for painting.
Spinning for the "Tour de Fleece" continues but I'm going at a fairly leisurely pace and haven't added any finished yarn.  Therefore, no changes in the stash report last week.

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 41 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2013: 13 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 6550 yards.
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 5250 yards
Net used for 2013: 1300 yards

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Randomday in blue

U-pick and barbecue for Cedar Tree in Woodland today.  I've been spindle spinning for the Tour de Fleece the last few days and have finally gotten past the acid green and into the blue.

Four gallons in the freezer, at least that much still to be processed.  But I'm tired and my back and neck are really achy.  I'm going upstairs to listen to Steve reading "The Choices of Master Samwise" to the girls.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

WIP Wednesday and Yarn-along


Steve gave our main computer a full lobotomy Monday, consulting with the Dell tech guys in India.  He's been rebooting it, re-installing things, and restoring from Carbonite ever since.  My photo editing capability has been limited until just now, so I'm rushing to get a few updates posted before Wednesday's completely gone.  My laptop may be next in line for a lobotomy.  [[shudder]]
My Country Stars quilt is rather large and cumbersome at the moment, bigger than my design wall can handle.  I'm also hoping to mount my Farmer's Wife top onto the Megaquilter frame, but I've not been sewing much for the last few days.
Finally! The brown socks are finished!  They fit Steve, but they just better not shrink.
Farmer McGregor Socks.  I am so glad to be done with them.  I will not be doing more socks for a bit.  Instead, I'm indulging in queue-diving on Ravelry and some startitis is already ensuing.
The Carnaby skirt, which I've been wanting to make for ages out of some reclaimed tweed yarn from a thrift store sweater.

And should I turn that lovely green Simply Cotton sport into Rosalind, or maybe Milena, or the Ruched Yoke Tee?  Rosalind is lovely, I think.  I've been perusing knitting patterns in my library, including back issues of Interweave Knits.  There are just so many patterns I like!

Books I've been reading: Just recently finished Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, and Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible.  I'm starting my first fiction book in awhile - The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby.  It's a mystery set in classical Athens, and I quite like it so far.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Design Wall and Stash Report

The design wall is in heavy use right now.  It's not quite big enough for a queen-sized layout, and there are blocks pinned to the bottom of other blocks and dragging on the floor.  This is my Country Stars quilt.  The blocks are all done and I'm happy with the layout.  The fabric recipe was scrappy, country, with a dash of Civil War and cottage.  I am having a wee bit of trouble with the diagonal layout -- Mr. Pythagoras forgot to remind me to seam the sashing strips with the block strips before adding the setting triangles.  So I may have a few seams to rip and re-sew, and I am also not sure about whether the setting triangles are quite big enough to avoid cutting the cornerstone squares in half along the edge. If that even makes sense.  Maybe in a few more days Pythagoras and I will be on better terms.
Exciting times in the stash; this is a bit of a mixed bag for me, as I'd like to see my stash shrinking.  I bought 2 more yards of black fabric for the sashing of Country Stars, and have added 225 yards of hemp yarn from the Tour de Fleece, and then my friend Joyce gave me this yesterday:
1300 yards of Knit Picks Simply Cotton in "Green Tea Heather" from a project she frogged.  With buttons! I really love this shade of green and have already been on Ravelry researching possibilities.
And of course there's yarn in progress on the wheel.
She's a pretty wheel.  And my only stash consumption this week is 550 yards of yarn (including heel reinforcement) on Steve's socks, which are finally finished!  Pictures later.

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 41 yards
Added this week: 2 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2013: 13 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 550 yards
Yarn used year to date: 6550 yards.
Yarn added this week: 1450 yards
Yarn added year to date: 5250 yards
Net used for 2013: 1300 yards

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Randomday, with recipes

 The plum tree is going to have one of those years, it looks like.  You can't tell until you get right up close...
 but there are a whole lot of plums on it.  By the end of the month we'll need to have a plan.
The zucchini plants at the end of the driveway are looking very healthy, as are the volunteer potato plants.
 Quarta was supposed to help Steve cart away some of the weeds.
I made this salad - fava bean and fennel - to go with supper.  Although I had never had much of either one of these vegetables before this summer, it's very good.  I left out the parmesan cheese.  Supper was Steve Special - mac and cheese from the box, tuna, peas, and olives. 
I had plums from 2009 in the freezer, which was maybe the last year the plum tree was this productive.  So I made my version of this recipe - Cornmeal Buckle with Plums - for fellowship dinner after church tomorrow.  This was a recipe I clipped several years back and my adaptation is as follows:

Cornmeal/Plum Buckle for a Crowd

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9x13" pan.


1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
Cut butter into dry ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.  (This is the same amount as called for in the original recipe)


1 stick (1/2 C) butter, softened
3 cups flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 qt. size freezer bags of halved plums, defrosted and excess juice drained
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In another large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar and eggs until it is fairly light and fluffy. Add half of the milk and beat until smooth. Gradually add the remaining milk while beating.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until well moistened. It will be the texture of cake batter. Fold in the plum pieces. Pour the batter into the baking pan and spread evenly. Scatter the topping mixture evenly over the top. Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

I double the recipe for the buckle itself but leave the same amount for the topping, and I bake it in a 9x13" pan for a little longer than the original recipe calls for.  I did have some spillover - I could probably have just used one package of plums, but I wanted to clear out the freezer.  I'll clean the oven next week.
The Tour de Fleece continues.  Last night I spun while Steve and I watched Snow White and the Huntsman.  Tonight we may watch some Wallace and Gromit while the boys play board games with friends.
Today I finished all the blocks needed for my Country Stars quilt.  Whee!  Now begins the fun of seaming them together with the sashing.  I think I have the layout the way I want the star blocks to be, but I need to have another look to see if there's something that jumps out at me as being too much of one thing in one place.  I have blocks pinned to other blocks because my design wall isn't quite big enough for a queen-sized quilt.

"Education is about the only thing lying around loose in the world, and it's about the only thing a fellow can have as much of as he's willing to haul away."
— George Horace Lorimer