Monday, January 23, 2012

Life at the Outpost

The top of the Cowboy Quilt is now finished, and I don't think I will have to piece the back, which I am very happy about.  With the selvedges removed, the width of the fabric is 41.5 inches and the top is 40 inches square (half an inch bigger than it should be!) and I have two metres of this so I am going to try cutting a 41.5 piece for the back.  The margin for the quilting will be very skinny though.  The other question is how to quilt it - I am definitely not hand quilting this one as the baby in question is due to arrive at any minute and I would like to give this gift to his parents before he turns 21!  Any suggestions would be welcome.

As usual, I've learned a few new things putting this quilt together:
- All quarter inch sewing machine feet are not equal.  Using the Pfaff foot comes out with a skinnier seam than the Janome foot and the result with Pfaff foot with a fabric guide is an even narrower seam.
- I am a compulsive pinner who forget to take the pins out as she goes which sometimes results  in seam/pin/needle disasters.  For this project I used flat head pins and they make life so much easier!

My self imposed deadline for finishing this quilt is two weeks - with house guests and other commitments, a week is out of the question. And this is also dependent on how long I faff around trying to decide how to quilt it. Let's see how we go.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Year of Good Things

In a week of Bad Things being trumpeted by the media (job losses, world financial market doom and gloom and so on), it has been helpful to think about the Good Things.  This project has helped me keep perspective about how lucky I really am.  Picking out a few for the week:

15/366 - Getting up early on a Sunday morning, driving to my parents' place with the dogs and going for a walk with Mum and Evil Eve.
Good for - all of the dogs, me and Mum.
15/366 - A second Good Thing on the same day!  Having lunch with some lovely friends who we have not seen for a long time.  A sunny afternoon spent out on the deck - bliss!
Good for - maintaining friendships.
16/366 - Going to see 'Re-inventing Radio - an evening with Ira Glass'.   Ira Glass is the host and creator of one of my favourite podcasts (actually a radio show) called 'This American Life".  The show based on an overall theme and is usually made up from a number of different stories relating to that theme.  The stories are always interesting and range from hilarious to heartbreaking.   The live show discussed the art of story telling and comparing the approach to stories on 'This American Life' to traditional news reporting.  It also covered the creation of the stories, the process for getting them on the air and a very funny example of what can kill a show just when the producers thought it was a sure thing.  A fascinating insight into ground breaking radio by a genial and informative host.
Good for - My broader interests.
20/366 - Another dinner, with friends D & S from Perth.  After a couple of memorable stays with them over the last couple of years, it was great to be able to extend hospitality to them.  And look at the beautiful housewarming gift they gave us:

Good for - returning the hospitality of lovely people.

And this coming week is full of more Good Things with S arriving from Sydney tomorrow for a week.  That'll keep the Bad Things at bay for a bit longer.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Creative Space

The Creative Space at Kootooyoo is on holidays but to keep up the habit, I thought I'd post on things that I have been working on anyway.  I have two projects on the go; the Wonky Star Quilt, which is taking ever so long to hand quilt, and a cowboy quilt for a baby boy due to make his entrance later this month.  Starting on the second before I had finished the first is not a good habit to get into but is the result of what I have learned over the last few weeks, which is that hand quilting is definitely a winter craft.  It is no fun hand sewing a quilt when the weather is hot and in fact it is pointless as your hands slip when trying to get the needle through the three layers of the quilt, resulting in even more wonky stitches than normal and frayed nerves.  I definitely do not need to spend more time correcting mistakes, so I gave it away when the mercury was in the high 30s at the beginning of last week.  At that stage I started work on cutting and machine piecing the cowboy quilt.  It has come together nicely so far, despite a cutting error which necessitated inclusion of a red inner border that is definitely not in the pattern!  I'm really happy with my progress since Monday night;  just the bottom border to join before sewing the top together.  The fabric was quite tricky to put into the design - even though I liked the range, the large scale of most of the prints meant that a lot of thought had to go into the composition.  I reluctantly decided that  my favourite of the lot couldn't be used for the top, but will make a great backing.
The next decision is what to use for the binding.   A darkish blue print from the same range (Wrangler's Ranch from South Sea Imports) is looking like the front runner, but I'll finish the top before making a decision.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Year of Good Things

Pip from Meet Me at Mikes is running a Year of Good Things Project.  I think this is a great thing to do and introduces a wonderful guiding principle into our lives.  I think we all do Good Things everyday, we just don't take note of them.  Initially, I thought being in a project like this would require a significant amount of effort but I don't think that is the case.  So I am going to join in but won't be blogging about this daily - now that sounds like far too much effort.  It also set me thinking about whether Good Things can be negated by Bad Things;  ie. Good Thing 6/366 was getting up at 5.30am on a day off to go to the gym.  The Bad Thing was on the way home buying a Wagon Wheel (chocolately, marshmallowy thing) to have for morning tea.  Then another Good Thing was not giving in to cravings for a hamburger with the lot for lunch.  So two Good Things wipe out the bad thing?  Interesting.

Anyway, thinking about the best Good Thing for the week, that would have to be:

4/366:  spotting dog reported missing by a neighbour, following it but when not able to catch it, letting locals know about it, then reporting whereabouts back to neighbour (who hopefully has got it back by now)
For:  Previously unknown resident of our street.

Stos's best Good Thing for the week was taking an elderly neighbour shopping this morning.  He is a very Good person.

And the relevance of the picture above?  That's my nephew E, who is a very Good Thing for our family.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

We saw out 2011 with some lovely friends, just sitting out under the stars, having a barbecue, a chat and a few cold beverages.  Give me a catch up with a small group any day over a big party!  As we had seen some illegal fireworks close to home the previous night, we decided to leave a bit earlier to make sure that Misses K and P weren't spooked by the noise, but they were fine.   Then the official fireworks went off at midnight and we had great views of the action over the city (but not the Art Centre Spire fiasco!), the west and the north where there were also firework shows.  Unfortunately the camera isn't really up for good pictures at night and while out of focus, I thought this looked quite pretty:

For the first day of 2012, we were up early and I went to the gym at 11pm.  It was another beautiful hot day and we were able to get out on the deck again with S and S over another dinner.  The menu was simple; just chicken cooked on the barbecue, Vietnamese coleslaw and Jill Dupleix's Crash Hot Potatoes out of her Simple Food cookbook.  I made these on Friday night and they were so delicious and easy, I thought I would make them again.  I did learn that before you flatten the potatoes, they should be cold - when I flattened one batch that had just come out of the microwave and they stuck to the potato masher.  The recipe, with some slight changes is below:

Crash Hot Potatoes (Jill Dupleix's recipe with a couple of tweaks)

1 medium potato per person (or more if you like)
Olive oil (I used extra virgin)
Sea salt
Fennel or caraway seeds
Fresh thyme

Heat the oven to 250C.  Cut potatoes in half and cook  in the microwave on High until done.  I find that 5 minutes cooks four potatoes (eight halves) nicely.  Place on a greased oven tray (I prefer to use baking silicone) and flatten each half potato using a masher or implement of your choice.  However, I found with the narrow gauge metal masher, the potato still tended to stick to it so I would use the flat style or a large spoon.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with seeds of your choice, thyme sprigs and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for around 20 minutes until crisp and golden and serve.  I found that 20 minutes wasn't quite enough - I took some out of the oven at this point, then turned the oven off and left the remainder there for a bit longer.  The latter were much more golden and crisp.  This is one dish that is going to stay in the repertoire - easy and universally popular!