Saturday, September 18, 2010

The beach is back

We spent several days at a beachfront condo on Emerald Isle. Beachfront, imho, is the only way to go for a beach vacation. There is nothing like being able to just run inside to go to the bathroom, grab some water or something to eat, or just get out of the sun, knowing we can come back to the beach without any big to-do. Here are some pictures of the view from deck of the condo we stayed in:

That's Rhett and BonnieBlue in the center of the frame.

We drove over to Beaufort one is the 3rd oldest city in North Carolina (Bath is the oldest, but I don't remember the other) and is famous for being a bit of a homebase for the pirate Blackbeard.

There are several boat tours that operate out of Beaufort. We took one to see "horses and nature." There's an island right across from Beaufort called Carrot Island on which live wild ponies that descended from those shipwrecked from Spanish Galleons. Being that BonnieBlue is a bit of a horse nut, we took the tour. She loved the boat ride and seeing the ponies.

Ponies on Carrot Island as seen from the boat.

While we were watching, the stallion (not pictured here) got a bit frisky with one of his harem. A little bit of live x-rated nature for my 3-year-old daughter to see! 

Ponies also live on Shackelford Island, which the boat drove by. These are all small islands I'm talking about. Shackelford is cool. You can have a boat drop you off and you can spend an hour or a day there. On the way to Shackelford, we also saw dolphins off the bow of the boat, but I couldn't get a good shot. They jumped within 20 feet at one point, but all I got was a fin shot.

We also spent a day at Fort Macon, one of the most amazing civil war sites. Seriously, if you are at all interested in history, Fort Macon is a destination in and of itself.

Rhett and BonnieBlue at Fort Macon

In short, I highly recommend the outerbanks as a vacation destination. After Labor Day, lodging prices drop significantly. We use Emerald Isle Realty, which I highly recommend. We've now stayed at Camp Cottage and Pier Pointe Condos. Sometimes, when I'm having a really stressful day, I go to the site and browse possible beachfront houses/condos at which to stay next time.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New quilting project

Ok, I decided to give up on the Snowbound quilt (snowman block-a-month) that I found via my friend Mother Pea, who follows an unholy number of quilting blogs. Every once in awhile, when I have some extra time, I stalk a blog or 2 from her site. I must remember not to do this because everytime I do, I find a project I want to start.

Snowbound can be found at Bunny Tales. It has applique for each of the 12 blocks, and I don't know how to do applique yet. I'm learning, bit by bit, but I'm an odd bird when it comes to quilting (I think). I think I'm a smart cookie, at least as far as book-learning, yet I find I cannot learn anything about quilting from a book (or blog, etc). It's an okay starting point, but generally I find that the author/blogger assumes the reader knows more than I do, so I'm always trying to figure something out.

Back when I started quilting, I was doing it "by the book" and found it frustrating as all get out. About a month or 2 in, I went to the Gee's Bend Quilt show at the Cleveland Museum of Art. After that experience, I decided I would never be a perfectionist quilter and likely would never attempt any quilt that required my points to match up. I even resolved to forgo patterns, but I've since come down off that ledge.

Anyway, until I figure out applique, meaning I have time to sit down a few hours a day a few days in a row to work through the process, I need something easier. I'm following a free motion quilting tutorial at A Few Scraps, but I do so enjoy piecing, so I want to start another project while I'm working on free motion quilting the one quilt I have right now. By the way, I intended that quilt (see earlier posts for pictures) to be for BonnieBlue but it turns out she loves the color blue (hence her pseudonym...thank goodness is goes with my Scarlett theme), so I think I'll make her another in shades of blue (the current quilt is green and yellow).

Back to topic, I want to start another project and ran into this at ErikHomemade. It's a mystery Christmas quilt project - cool!

Changing topics, tonight is our last night at the beach. We sort of last minute rented a beachfront condo on Emerald Isle, which is now a 2-year tradition for our little family. Every time I sit down to hop on the computer, I don't have the camera or the card reader handy, and my will to update with a new post goes out the french doors with the ocean breeze. Perhaps when I return  home, I will post pictures AND my fabric choices for the mystery quilt. I am practically giddy with anticipation!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

When I'm stressed...

I bake.

Unfortunately, sewing doesn't do it for me like baking does, probably because there is nothing to eat after sewing.

As I've mentioned before, I'm writing a grant application.
It's due this week.
I've never written one before.
I'm doing almost all of it by myself.
I am not handling the stress very well.
So, tonight I made an apple crostata.

I stalk a few cooking blogs and really enjoy those pictures. I admire those cooking bloggers, so I wanted to give my blog the look of a cooking blog, just this once. Maybe again in the future sometime, who knows?

I can't remember where I stole/got the original recipe, which I feel bad about. I visit these cooking blogs frequently, but I couldn't find it on them:  Our Best Bites,  My Kitchen Cafe, Picky Palate. But I changed it enough (e.g., reduced the sugar and butter, upped the cinnamon) that I don't feel that bad. I also simplified it. You could use only one bowl. I don't make any recipe that has too many  procedures, uses too many atypical ingredients, or too many dishes...hate the clean-up!

Without further ado..(the recipe follows the pictures)

Here's what you need. I had already peeled 2 apples when I realized I could blog the crostata creating!
You can just peel and slice, but I like my little apple much easier when the apple is peeled!

I don't have any fancy bowls or mixing utensils.

Several of the crostata recipes I perused said to roll out the pie crust to 11" (this one is 9" Kroger brand), but I like my crust thick. Also, I made a peach crostata a couple of week ago and the rolled out crust split and leaked all over. Not a problem to worry about with apple crostata because you won't get the juice that you do with a peach, but it's something to keep in mind.

Mound it all on there in the center of the crust.

One of my favorite things about this recipe; you can make the topping in the same bowl that you just made the apple filling in.

Spoon on the topping and pleat up the crust. If you prefer a crustless version, use a buttered ramekin and a little less than a cup of the filling. Don't forget the topping: it really makes the dessert yummy. At this point, you can brush some egg white on. It makes it look so pretty. I forgot.

The original recipe called for 3 apples, but I used 4 (no such thing as less is more when I'm baking!) so I had just enough left over for a ramekin. This is the picture post-baked.

Don't bake it at 450 degrees, which I did because that's what the recipe I had called for. Thankfully I checked it at 20 minutes and barely saved it from burning.

The only thing missing is the vanilla ice cream.

Apple Crostata

Place a pie crust on a parchment-lined or baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375˚.

The Filling (in a bowl combine):
1/4 cup flour
<1/2 cup granulated sugar (I've taken to reducing the sugar in any recipe; use less then 1/2 cup but more than 1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
about 4 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced)

Stir dry ingredients with a fork. Add the apples and stir with a sturdy spoon until all apples slices are well-coated.

Mound the apples on the center of the pie crust.

The Topping (place in the same bowl):
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oats (any kind)
<1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons cold butter, diced

Using a fork, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the butter and using the back of the sturdy spoon, flatten and stir over and over until the butter and dry ingredients are crumbly. Spoon evenly over the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle. If desired, brush egg white on the dough.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 30 minutes (check at 20!), until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

After I finished this, I realized how tasty it would be with blueberries or raisins or walnuts. I also forgot to add the 1 tbsn of flaxseed meal I've been trying to remember to add to all baked goods. Next time!

The original recipe called for more sugar, more butter, less cinnamon and allspice, no oats in the topping, and kosher salt, which I don't have. Regular salt seemed to work fine.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Procrastination Routine

1. Check all 3 email accounts (yes, I have 3)
2. Check my church's Yahoo group posts
3. Check the Freecycle Yahoo group posts
4. Check blogs, specifically Peas in a Pod, The Ramblings of a Political Psychology Major (he doesn't post very often so I'm about to cut him from my routine), Straight from the Farm (I stalk this idea who it is but it's usually amusing), and some friends' sites who live far away just to catch up.
5. Check Facebook
6. And if I'm really putting off the work, I'll post on my own blog. With a picture if it's a really dreaded task I'm putting off.
7. Get a tall glass of water
8. Check to see if there is anything to eat.
9. Set up a to-do list with specified rewards (some would say this is essential and not procrastination at all). If you check out my list in the picture, you might think I'm a little wacky if I think 'dishes' are a reward. But the reward is really getting up away from the task at hand for a break. Being productive on my break makes me feel good. Besides, I can watch tv while folding clothes...bonus!
10. Put a load of laundry in.
11. Repeat 1-5.

Now is one of those times I'm really putting off the work. I'm writing a grant. It's due in  6 days, but I have to send off drafts to stakeholders on Tuesday. Argh!

I put this to-do list on a big sticky 'note' and put it on the sliding glass door next to the table I'm working at. It serves as an easy 'look-to' reference of what possible rewards I'm working for and will also block out the late afternoon sun.

Now, lest you think I am posting nothing about quilting, note the box in the middle of my list and what it points to. Sometimes I get a bit creative with the reinforcer procedure. After BonnieBlue is in bed (which is a feat in and of itself) and after I iron clothes, I can cut, sew together, and attach the sashing to my quilt top. Woot!
According to my reinforcer list, in 5 min I can wash the smudge off the front window and vacuum away the cobwebs or I can work 50 more minutes and go outside and weed. I really want to go outside (beautiful day!) so I'll probably keep working.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Choices, choices; decisions, decisions

quilt top is above, backing is the sunflower fabric; sashing is to the right, border is to the left.
Ok, here's my problem. I can 't decide what to use as the border and what to use as the backing. I think I want to use the sunflower fabric as backing and the little leaves/twigs as border. The light yellow/green circle fabric to the right is going to be sashing. I have no one to ask about things like this. What do you think? Here's another picture to help you get the idea.
Just to review, this is my scrappy quilt that I'm going to practice free motion quilting on. It's going to be for my BonnieBlue, and all the fabrics were already in my collection.

Someday (post-tenure, knock on wood) I'm going to teach an extra class or seminar to earn some extra money and then just go out and buy fabrics that I think are beautiful, not with a particular project in mind. As it is, these are all left over from a stack-and-whack baby quilt I made 2 years ago.

So, back to the topic at hand, do you think it's okay that the backing will be strikingly different from the quilt top? There will be a tie-in: I don't have enough sunflower fabric and I have another row of the scrap fabric leftover, so I'm going to add it to the backing so that combined with the sunflowers, it'll be big enough. I saw this idea at one of the many quilt blogs I've been stalking (thanks again, Mama Pea), but I can't remember which one. I'll post a picture of my own when I get it sewn together.