Welcome to tales of my stitching life, home, family and friends.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cheese Puffs

With friends coming for lunch today, I decided to whip up another batch of Cheese Puffs.  There had been a request for the recipe I use, so here it is.  Adapted from “A Real Gem”, Tried and Tested Recipes from the Eastern Bay of Plenty Country Women’s Institute.
2 cups flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 2 cups grated cheese, 1 cup chopped parsley
Mix together with 2 beaten eggs and enough milk to make a runny dough
Put into greased 12 hole muffin pan
Cook 180 degrees 15-20 mins till well risen and browned
Serve warm with butter, yummy!
P9290023 Cheese Puffs, fresh from the oven

Because I wanted to make them just before lunch, I had all the dry ingredients placed together in the mixing bowl, left it covered, then just had to add the eggs and milk when I was ready to mix it all together.

P9290013 Ready for the wet ingredients

They are best eaten the same day.  I usually freeze any leftovers.  If we fancy something extra for lunch, it is easy to pull a couple out of the bag, and pop them in the microwave to warm through.  Do let me know if you try them.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September UFO Night

Quilt Club UFO night is held on the last Friday of the month, and I’m always keen to go along and spend time stitching with fellow club members.  That’s if we are not heading away for a caravan weekend, it’s always a shame if the dates clash.  What to take to work on, is always the question.  During the day I laid out my burgundy and cream log cabin blocks on the bed to see if I had made enough.  Not wide enough, I decided, I’ll need to make another row of blocks to add to each side.  The mattress and base on new beds these days are so deep that quilts need to be much larger to fit nicely.  Then I spent some time standing over the cutting board slicing more burgundy and cream strips, located my bag of centre squares, then packed up the sewing machine and assorted bits and pieces all ready for my night out.  Oh, mustn’t forget to prepare my plate for the shared meal, club sandwiches this time, I think.

The ladies arrived and settled in, ready for a good night’s stitching.  The food for our evening meal was placed on the kitchen counter, together with a bowl of baby chocolate fish, to keep our energy levels up.  Hand stitchers gathered together at the long tables in the centre of the room, while those of us with sewing machines sat at tables around the perimeter of the room, close to the power switches.  I started work on 8 more log cabin blocks, stitching each log on, folding the fabric back to trim the excess off, them jumping up to the ironing board to press.  It’s slow work, but paper piecing keeps the blocks nice and accurate.  I’m sure I wouldn’t get the same great results if I wasn’t sewing on the lines.

P9270002 What I’m working on

Kathy’s 6 year old grand-daughter loves cats, so of course her new quilt contains lots of fun cat prints.  Kathy was cutting lots of squares and rectangles to make flying geese blocks  out of paw print fabric.   Kathy also took charge of the kitchen, heating up things in the oven, dealing with the dishes, and making sure we were all well looked after.  Thanks very much, Kathy.

P9270003 Pussies galore for a grand-daughter

Kaye came in for a bit of good hearted banter when she brought out her hand pieced play blocks from last month’s UFO night.  But, she told us, she has been doing all sorts of other sewing during the month, and was saving this project for tonight.  With all that hand stitching, it will take a while, and the variegated thread adds a nice touch.

P9270004 Hand stitching the foam blocks together

Leigh was also working on a long term project.  Her fun appliqué cat quilt was purchased from The Cloth Shop and she has been busy cutting and fusing all the pieces together.  When all this fiddly preparation work is done, she will hand button hole stitch each block.  Leigh has some chooks at home which have been very busy laying, and brought in some lovely eggs to give away.  I was lucky to get half a dozen to take home – thanks very much, Leigh.

P9270005 Leigh’s cat project

Half square triangles of every imaginable colour all went together nicely in Jan’s pin wheel quilt.  These blocks were part of a challenge run by Sawmillers Quilt Shop.  I like the way Jan is putting these blocks together with the black framing squares.  She has heaps more blocks to play with, so it will be good to see how it looks with the next border added.

P9270006 Jan’s pin wheel quilt

Sandra loves batiks and has batiks of many lovely shades in this quilt which will be made for her own bed.  This nice simple block has been arranged into big squares with black sashing between.  Still more blocks to be added, and it will look great when it is done.

P9270009 Sandra’s batik blocks

Now, back to the hand stitchers at the middle tables.  Vickie was working on an appliqué block featuring strawberries on a pretty blue background.  Just look at those fine bias stems.  She showed me a picture of the complete quilt, which will be stunning.
P9270010 Vickie and her strawberry block

Just look at this Crinoline lady with such fine stitching which Mary has completed.  This will be made into a pretty lace trimmed cushion.  Mary is one of the original club members, and learnt embroidery as a child, she told us. 

P9270008 Embroidered cushion front

And Sara and (another) Mary were sitting together working on yet another Mystery Block of the Month project together.  (These girls in the club all love their Block of the Month projects).  This one was designed by the very talented Lynette Anderson and each segment comes with a beautiful hand crafted wooden button, which gets added after the blocks are put together and quilted.  And those teeny tiny hexagon blocks will be part of the quilt too.

P9270007 Lynette Anderson BOM

So that’s an overview of what everyone was working on during the evening.  Add in the friendly banter, companionship, and tasty shared meal, you can see that we all had a great night.  And thanks again for those eggs, Leigh, much appreciated.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Embroideries at the Library

Embroidery is alive and well in sunny Levin.  I know because today I popped down to the library to select a couple of books for the upcoming Book Club.  (This month's category is the Tudors – would have to be my favourite time in history).  Members of the Horowhenua Embroiderers Guild had pieces of their work displayed in the library, so I stopped to have a look.  Such a variety of work, from cross stitch, to hardanger, stump work and black work.  There was even some pulled thread work, which I remember doing many years ago when I was at Primary School.  My stitching from all those years ago was nothing like the fine work on display.  Who else can remember stitching pulled thread work at school on a piece of sacking to make an oven cloth for our Mums?  We used wool threaded onto a bodkin, if I remember rightly.

I’ve always admired hardanger, though I don’t know if I could trust myself with cutting the threads between the stitching.  My clever daughter stitched me two pretty runners many years ago when she was a young Mum home looking after her youngsters.

P9270020 Selection of hardanger pieces

P9270023Stump work

The stitching on this 3D hydrangea picture was so fine, lots of tiny stitches and beads.  It looks like the background was painted onto fabric.

P9270025  3D Hydrangea picture

And there was a lovely wall hanging which caught my eye, beautifully machine quilted which accentuated the flowers and leaves. 

P9270027 Poppy wall-hanging

The librarian who runs the Book Club stopped for a quick chat.  She also organises the monthly displays, and the local potters will be the next group to show their work.  I’m sure that will be worth checking out too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Patchwork and Pastries

We had a couple of reasons to visit the big city of Wellington yesterday.  The weather wasn’t the best, it rained, and rained, and rained some more, as only Wellington can.  Living further north in the milder climate of Levin these days, we didn’t bother to take coats with us.  That was a mistake, we should really have known better.  In the afternoon we parked the car in Thorndon, and I dodged the rain as I hurried along the footpath for a quick visit to Nancy’s Embroidery Store.

I can remember visiting Nancy’s a life time ago when I first started work.  Back then the shop was situated on the ground floor of the iconic James Smith’s department store.  Sewing dresses to wear to the Saturday night dances was more my style back then, but I was fascinated with all the different embroidery threads, fabric, patterns and samples on display.  The shop is now owned by Mary Self, who kindly allowed me to take some photos on my visit.  This is Wellington’s only specialist embroidery store and has everything needed for all the different types of hand work, plus yarn for keen knitters.  I of course gravitated to the shelves of colourful patchwork fabric, and spent some time checking it out.  Well worth a stop if you are travelling to Wellington
After my patchwork fix we had lunch just up the street at the Bordeaux French Bakery.  The counters were full of delicious French goodies  and as the mistress of procrastination, it took me ages to make up my mind what to order.  Choices are never easy, and  I finally chose a toasted bagel with salmon and cream cheese.  Robin had no trouble making up his mind, and his choice was one of the spicy Barvarian barbecued sausages which we could see slowly turning over on a bed of rollers, served in a bread roll with mustard and plum sauce. 

P9250010 It all looks good enough to eat

And you could hardly expect us to eat at a French Bakery without ordering one of those delicious pastries for dessert, would you?  How about a slice of apricot custard tart for me, and a huge pastry covered in nuts for Robin, with a gooey custard centre?  Probably a million calories in each, but oh, so yummy.

P9250011 Apricot tart for dessert

Monday, September 23, 2013

In praise of Parsley

Years ago, when I was just a little girl of three or four, I had my first introduction to parsley.  My Mother took me to visit a friend of hers, and we stayed for lunch, scrambled eggs with parsley mixed through.  I looked at my plate and asked, “what’s that green stuff?”.  My Mother was horrified with my lack of manners, and told me to be quiet and eat my lunch up.  Oh dear, I was a quiet little thing back then, and getting told off was the end of the world.  What had I done wrong?  I really didn’t know what that green stuff was in my scrambled eggs!

Here in our new home, I have a parsley plant in the garden that is growing so well.  Now I’m grown up, I know all about putting some of this tasty herb in scrambled eggs these days.

P9170001 Parsley plant in the garden

I made some Cheese Puffs recently, and although the recipe didn’t specify it, I added chopped parsley to the mixture.  They were so delicious, hot and cheesy, with the hint of parsley taste.  Quick and easy to make, just the thing to whip up next time I have visitors coming, I think
P9170011 Cheese puffs with added parsley

Did you know that parsley is the world's most popular herb? It derives its name from the Greek word meaning "rock celery".  It is chock full of vitamins K, C, and A, as well as folate and iron.   Guess I’ll have to find some more recipes that I can add more of my parsley to.  Mr Google knows everything, so that’s a good place to start.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How many days till Christmas?

I’m wondering how many days till Christmas?  (Someone is sure to know.)   Hopefully I’ll have my long neglected Christmas quilt finished by then.  I’ve been working on it intermittently for quite some time, so it would be nice finally get it finished.  Perhaps you remember when I started machine quilting it in variegated red and green thread?  Sadly, this showed up all my quilting imperfections and I sat and ripped all the stitches out.  This time, having learnt my lesson, I’m quilting it with cream thread, and I’m much happier with the results.  It’s not that my machine quilting skills have magically improved, just that any weird stitches blend in better.
Today I was sitting outside at the picnic table sewing my ends in.  I know some people make tiny stitches when they start and finish, but I don’t like to do that.  It was quite restful, sitting out, enjoying the warm morning and working quietly away.  We are going camping for a few days, then I’ll get back to some more machine quilting again.
P9180013 Still working on my Christmas quilt

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Sew Wots came calling

It was my turn to host the Sew Wots today, a small friendship group which meet fortnightly.  Moving away from Upper Hutt last year meant that I had to leave behind the couple of quilting groups I met with regularly.  So I am very pleased that I was invited to join this small group of friendly ladies who took me under their wings.  Although I joined the local Town and Country Quilters Guild and enjoy the monthly meetings, it is so nice to belong to a smaller group as well.  Thanks so much ladies, I really appreciate your fellowship and getting to know you all.

P9170004 Pam, Heather, Rae, Moira and Mary

After having a “grand tour” of our new home, everyone settled down with their handwork as we chatted away.  Heather was stitching away on her hexagons, while Rae was working on her stitchery panel to be made into a cushion.  I got my knitting out, and Mary was working away on the prettiest little baby cribs.  She was crocheting around the base of the crib, which extends to a tiny draw string bag, so nice for little girls to carry around with them.  Inside the crib was a tiny little dolly, complete with a knitted dress, hat and panties.  I had never seen anything like it.
 P9170010The well dressed tiny dolly

P9170009Fast asleep in the baby crib

Moira had finished her sashiko panels with the Maori inspired designs and is now turning them into a set of placemats.  These will be packaged and sent all the way to Nova Scotia for a Christmas gift.

P9170012 Place mat made by Moira

Some time ago the group took part in making a Row by Row quilt each, with Mary supplying the guidelines for each row.  These ideas could be open to interpretation, however the maker chose.  Two of the finished quilts were brought along today for Show and Tell.  It was interesting to see how they both turned out.

P9170005 Pam’s Row by Row quilt

P9170006Mary hiding behind her Row by Row quilt

Our elderly cat Muffy spent the morning snuggled up on the couch beside Pam.  I commented that Pam should feel privileged, as Muffy decides whether or not she wants anything to do with visitors, depending on her mood, I think.  Pam does not have a cat anymore and really misses her pets, so it was nice that Muffy was happy to share the couch with her.  

P9170007Muffy and her new friend Pam

Seeing other peoples work is always inspiring so when the Sew Wot ladies left I had a rummage around through a crate full of UFOs.  There are plenty there, and some I had forgotten about.  One only needs a border added, so I pulled that one out of the crate to think about.  I don’t think I’ll ever run out of something to sew!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Stitching in the Sunshine

Spent a bit of time yesterday as the sewing machine, finishing off the quilting on my eagle wall hanging, then sewing the binding on.  I took advantage of the lovely warm Spring weather today and sat outside at the picnic table pinning then stitching the binding down.  It may be little but it still took me ages to sew right around.  Here’s a peek at what I’ve been working on.

P9150021 Just a little peek

P9140017Backing fabric 

The hanging sleeve and label will be next.  Then I have a few embellishments to add, and I may well need some advice on how best to attach them.  Luckily my quilting buddies,  the Sew Wots  are meeting at my place on Tuesday, so I’m sure I will get plenty of good advice from them.  Guess I’ll need another stint on kitchen duties to whip up a few tasty treats for morning tea for when they come.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sadly, too busy to Stitch

There hasn’t been much sewing happening here lately, I’m sad to say, I’ve been much too busy to stitch.  Instead, I seem to have been spending an awful lot of time in the kitchen.  I had some very special baking to do yesterday, when I baked a long awaited carrot cake with cream cheese icing for Robin’s birthday.  That certainly put a big smile on his face.  And I also prepared the fruit for a batch of of marmalade yesterday too.  So all in all, I seemed to be standing for hours, slaving away at the kitchen bench.  But all for a good cause.

We took a road trip to Palmy this morning to buy Robin’s birthday gift, a new Ryobi drill.  Plus a few bits and pieces for the back garden, a couple of shrubs, some weed mat and some bark chips to put on top and keep the weeds away.  Hopefully, the garden will get finished in the weekend.  Then in the afternoon I finished off my marmalade, after the chopped fruit had been soaking overnight.  I felt a bit like one of the witches in Macbeth as I stood over the boiling pan of fruit.  “Double,double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

But the results were well worth the effort, as I ladled the golden marmalade into the jam jars, and listened to the satisfying “pops” as the jars started to seal tight.  Doesn’t it look nice?   Not bad for my first effort in the art of marmalade making, I feel.

P9130009My first time making marmalade

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Read the recipe before starting

It pays to read the recipe first, doesn’t it?  But no, I didn’t bother.  I was all set to make some marmalade, something I had never done before.  Although I’ve made plenty of jam in my time, but marmalade was a different proposition altogether.  We were visiting friends last week in their new house and they had a huge  grapefruit tree covered in fruit in the back garden.  But they, like Robin, can’t eat grapefruit because of their medication.  I don’t have the same problem, so I gathered up a big bag of the luscious fruit to take home, and have been enjoying a nice fresh grapefruit most mornings for breakfast.  And before I ate them all, I decided to make some marmalade.

Robin was sent up to the attic to retrieve my large preserving pan, and I got to work.  Oh no, it said in the recipe to prepare the fruit, add some water and then leave it soaking overnight!  I didn’t know you had to do that – but if I’d read the recipe earlier I would have.

Oh dear - what a mess I made getting it all ready  (I always say I’m a messy cook!)  I had to peel the fruit first, and cut it up.  Not finely, as it said, I like my marmalade nice and chunky.  Then the flesh from the grapefruit, oranges and lemons were cut up and put into the food processor in batches.  By the time I had finished  there was juice everywhere.  But the fruit was ready, and soaking, and I’ll cook it all up tomorrow in my big pan. 

P9120003 Stage one of making marmalade

I had another job to do in the kitchen as well.  Today is Robin’s birthday so I decided to make him a cake.  Not just any cake, but a carrot cake.  Each year, he trots out the story of one particular birthday some time ago when I had promised him a home made carrot cake, but didn’t get around to making it.  Why?  Who knows, that part of the story is lost in the mists of time after all these years.  But here it is at last, a carrot cake with cream cheese icing, just for the birthday boy.

P9120002 Happy Birthday to Robin

P9120005 And finally, he’s got his carrot cake

Monday, September 9, 2013

Colonial Hand Craft at Golder Cottage

It was a step back to bygone colonial years when we visited the quaint little Golder Cottage in Upper Hutt.  This was built in 1876 by John Golder, home to his wife Jane and their 12 children.  Jane was the first white girl child born in Upper Hutt.  John added extra rooms to the cottage as the babies kept coming, and he also made much of the household furniture.  As we looked around the cottage, and climbed the very steep staircase to the two tiny upstairs bedrooms, we wondered where on earth the family of 14 all slept.  A lovely selection of hand stitched clothing was displayed in many of the rooms, such pin tucked and lace adorned garments are always a delight to see.

P9080014  Baby’s cot and clothing

P9080019The very steep roof line in the upstairs bedrooms

Downstairs there was plenty of hand craft of the period to admire.  A sewing machine and a spinning wheel were set up just waiting for the busy lady of the house to start work.  There were several aprons stitched with glamorous designs.

P9080006 A hand embroidered apron

This hexagon patchwork quilt,  was stitched by a local lady using remnants of her sister's frocks.

P9080016Quilt by Elyse Boyce of Upper Hutt made 1940s

P9080018I learnt to sew on one of these

P9080013Display of hand made lace

Particularly poignant were the white crotched mantle banners with patriotic wording which were attached to two timber fireplace surrounds, and presumably date from WW1.  One banner said:  “God bless our soldiers in the trenches and our sailors on the seas.  God send them safely home”.  The other banner stated:  “Keep the home fires burning till the boys come home to Bonnie Scotland”. 

P9080011 Sitting room with mantle banner and family photos

Sadly, John Golder was killed in 1902 when his horse bolted and the trap overturned.  Jane was left a widow with a very large family and there was no such thing as a Widow’s Pension to help out in those days.  Their eldest son Alexander never married, and helped with bringing up the family.  Jane Golder died in 1942, and the cottage stayed in the family for another 40 or so years when daughter Theresa Golder moved into a rest home at the grand old age of 92.  Ownership of the cottage was transferred to the Upper Hutt City Council to preserve it as part of the city’s heritage.  We enjoyed a very interesting morning seeing how the early settlers lived in colonial times.

P9080003 Golder Cottage, Upper Hutt

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Table Runner – finished at last

It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally finished the table runner.  Now I have two for the coffee table, to ring the changes.  I used some of the left over curtain fabric in both, the same green for the borders, but different neutral fabrics and both are made in different styles.  I’m quite pleased with my effort – what do you think?

P9070002 The new table runner

So now the big question is, what do I work on next?  Go back to my eagle wall hanging perhaps?  Or maybe my Christmas quilt which I’m halfway through quilting?  Or then again something completely different from my UFO pile?  As Alex Anderson used to say on her TV programme, the possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Quilting Shades of Green table runner

Back on track again with the green table runner, I finished quilting in the ditch between the strips.  Now – what shall I do in the middle square?  Something a bit more interesting that straight lines, I thought.  Perhaps something swirly?  I’m certainly not an expert machine quilter, by any means, so spent a little time looking through some books for inspiration.  After finding a suitable pattern, the next question was how to mark it on the top.  Then I remembered that I had bought a roll of Golden Threads quilting paper some time ago.

P9010002 Golden Threads quilting paper

This is rather like tissue paper.  So I traced out the design, pinned it in place and quilted around the lines.

P9020003Just follow the traced lines

And the bonus was that the paper ripped away easily when I had finished.

P9020004 The paper half removed

I was really impressed with this product.  According to the instructions, it is also easy to make multiple copies of the same design.  Just trace one, then layer with 5 or 6 other sheets and machine stitch around the lines without any thread in the machine.  How easy is that!

The binding is on the runner, so my next job is to sit quietly and hand stitch it down.  Maybe today, or maybe tomorrow, we’ll see how the day pans out.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

August UFO Night

I love UFO nights, with the chance to sit and stitch with fellow quilters.  My new quilt club, Town and Country Quilters, holds this event  on the last Friday of the month.   I missed the previous one as we were away somewhere or other in the caravan, so I was pleased that this date suited.  Everyone brought something to share for our Pot Luck meal, and as usual, there was plenty of food.  New member Cheryl made a bit pot of delicious chicken, corn and noodle soup, lovely and thick, which went down a treat with some crusty bread.  With hot savouries, pizza, salad wraps, salmon dip with crackers, cream puffs for dessert, and ample tea and coffee, we were well fed indeed. And as seems to be the custom, a nice big bowl of bite sized chocolate fish to nibble on as required.

There were all sorts of different projects being worked on, both by hand and machine.  Jan was seated down in the corner and brought along her colourful quilt to show us.  This had just come back from her daughter who machine quilted on her recently purchased long arm machine.  This quilt design (Geometric Delight) was featured in issue 60 of New Zealand Quilter Magazine.

P8300012 Jan with her geometric quilt

Jan was working on her blocks in black and white with a touch of red.  The design is ”Rambling Rose meets Jamestown, from Grandmother’s Garden.  This will be a surprise quilt for her son and his wife, and features both log cabin blocks interspersed with different pieced blocks.

P8300020 Surprise quilt for Jan’s son

There was a group seated at the tables in the middle of the hall, all working away quietly by hand.  Or not so quietly, as the noise level tended to rise now and again when they were discussing an interesting topic.  Vicky was working on her Stretched Hexagons in autumn colours.  The hexagon blocks are joined together with tiny little squares.  It all looks much too hard for me!

P8300014 Vicky’s Stretched Hexagons

Janelle is taking part in a BOM quilt sent out from USA, so gets exciting parcels in the mail box.  These small appliqué blocks are in Civil War fabrics and all those different colours will look wonderful together.  She was preparing her next block for appliqué, using freezer paper and soluble glue.

P8300018 Jannelle with her Civil War blocks

Our President Leigh was surrounded with cat blocks, a Tall Poppies block of the month  pattern, “There’s no such thing as an Innocent Cat”.   She was putting all the pieces together for her Aloysius cat block ready for appliqué.  Aren’t these cats just so cute?

P8300017 Leigh’s cat blocks

No one was sure what Kaye was up to.  She had blocks of foam rubber and lots of bright fabrics on the table.  She was making Play Blocks, a little bit like a Rubik Cube, she said.  By the end of the evening she was well on the way with constructing this very difficult looking project.  Kaye had made one before, and declared she would never make another, but…….

P8300025 Kaye working on her Play Blocks

New member Cheryl (who brought that tasty chicken soup)  was stitching up a very colourful Dr Seuss 4 patch quilt.  This will be a gift for her lucky little great-nephew, who is sure to love his new quilt.   I remember when my grandchildren children loved to visit and read my set of books when they were little umpteen years ago, so it is good to know that Dr Seuss is still popular today.

P8300019 Bright and colourful Dr Seuss 4 patch blocks

Sandra always brings several projects, and I loved the long appliqué border she was working on.  I want to do something similar so it was good to be able to talk to Sandra and get some helpful advice on how to go about it.

P8300021A couple of Sandra’s projects

Also on the go was Sandra’s quilt top made from a lovely range of batiks.  This is a simple block, but so effective in all those lovely colours.

P8300022Sandra's batik blocks

I brought along my light box and spent several hours tracing out a pattern – and I still haven’t finished!  I  should have realised that this rather intricate pattern would have pages and pages of big and little shapes to trace off.  This will be for my elder grand-daughter, but I feel  it may well be a long time in the making!

P8300024 What I was working on

It was an interesting evening, with tasty food and good company.  Many thanks to everyone for putting up with me and my camera as I checked out what everyone was doing.