Sewing update…

24 Apr

So – I’ve been busy these past 5 months…thought it was high time I shared some images of all my little doings!

First, in early December I joined the L.A. Modern Quilt Guild, which is extremely awesome.  With about 40 regular meeting attendees, the guild is a really fun/inspiring/interesting place to spend a weeknight each month.  Occasionally we do swaps, and in December we did a quilted potholder swap for the holidays.  I had to make mine SUPER fast because I only learned of the guild’s existence about 36 hrs pre-swap.  But I really liked the end result.  Here’s a pic of the front:

And here’s the back – I added my initials (but no one else did, so I guess I’m kind of a narcissist):

The following week I whipped up an improvisational patchwork pillow for my dear friend Jessica’s Xmas gift.  But after I finished the patchwork I wanted to make an interesting back, and I got inspired by a picture of somebody’s patchwork/embroidered pillow on Flickr.  So I made an embroidered back, and in the end I decided it would be the front:

And here’s the back – intended to be the front:

Luckily, she loved it!  Or pretended to.  Either way, I’m content.

After the holidays I set to work in earnest on a baby gift for an old friend.  The goal was to finish a quilt by late January, so she could open it at her baby shower in D.C., even though I couldn’t be there in person.  The other goal was to make the quilt basically orange, red, and yellow, since those are the favorite colors of this friend and her husband.  In the end, I did not finish the quilt until like two weeks before the baby was born, in March, and I added some blue, to balance out all those warm reddish tones:

Here’s a close-up, to show the roughly ten million hours of hand quilting involved:

It was hard to part with this baby.  Only the second quilt I’ve finished, but I fell in love with it.  I would never have worked with orange on my own, but damn if it isn’t my favorite color now.

I’ve been working on a few different quilt projects since I put that one to bed, but nothing to show yet.  I DID have the amazing fortune to stumble upon a newly-forming quilting bee on the ole interweb, which kicked off this past month.  I made the following block for this month’s assignment:

It’s more simple than I would have liked to do for the lovely lady hosting this month, but I just COULD NOT COME UP WITH ANY INTERESTING IDEAS.  Massive, massive sewer’s block.

I’m back in the studio, makin’ sweet love to my sewing machine every day.  In fact, I’ve got to get pinning – almost ready to finish piecing another quilt top!

JamBlogging…Episode 1 (Guava)

20 Nov

I’ve been a major supporter of home-canning since I first tasted my grandma’s homemade dill pickles about 20 years ago…I loved the mystique of putting something into a jar, hiding it away for a while, and then cracking open the bounty whenever I wanted it.  Recently I got into canning again because it’s just plain practical when you eat seasonally (unless you’re okay with only eating apricots three weeks out of the year…and I am most certainly NOT), it’s damn cost-effective, and it’s a way to have a pantry full of food without relying on anything containing chemical preservatives or other ingredients I cannot pronounce.

So far, our family canning efforts (and yes, canning is a team activity around here) have not extended past jam and pickles.  I did mean to can tomatoes over the summer, but I kept putting it off and then I missed the harvest.  I keep swearing I’ll do it next year, but we’ll see.  I love to make all sorts of plans and then not follow through.  It’s kind of my thing.

But jam is easy, and can be made all year, depending on what’s available.  We made a boatload of Blenheim apricot preserves in the early summer, which have been a major hit with our friends.  But I have been craving guava jam, since raw guavas are basically inedible (very sour and gritty), and I’ve been madly in love with the taste and scent of the fruit since my very early childhood in Hawaii.  It’s one of the most distinctive flavors I’ve had–no better way to describe it than as TOTALLY TROPICAL.  All caps are necessary.

On Wednesday I bought six pounds of local guavas, a few different Mexican varieties that grow in this part of the country.  Sadly the jubilant pink guavas of Hawaii and some parts of the Carribbean are hard to come by around here, but the yellow ones I purchased had the same heady scent.  Our entire house fairly REEKED of guava until I made the jam.  I loved it, but Daniel was less keen.  It’s kind of a potent smell.  Anyway, last night we sat down and peeled the entire lot, plopping them into our 7.25 qt dutch oven:

Raw, peeled guavas

At this point I was not entirely sure how to proceed.  When I made the apricot preserves, I had a time-tested recipe.  But guavas are far less common in this country, so recipes for guava ANYHING are a rarity.  I had to make do with a few different recipes I scrounged on the internet, which is always a risky proposition.  What follows is what I did, although next time I will tweak the process a bit.

First I poured enough filtered water over the fruit to almost cover.  I put the dutch oven over medium heat and simmered the fruit until it was soft and mashable:

Guavas cooking!

That took about 15 minutes.  When they were all soft, we put them through a food mill to extract the many many seeds guavas contain:

I must say, the scent of the fruit was pretty damn overwhelming at this point.  I felt like I was living inside a froufy cocktail from the 1950s.

We ended up with 9.5 cups of rather watery puree.  I realized I added too much water to the fruit–next time I will add JUST enough to help the guavas cook.  Live and learn.  To the puree, I added 6 cups of sugar.  Yes, this sounds like an obscene amount, but old-fashioned jam MUST be this high in sugar in order to adequately preserve the fruit.  You can use less sugar and add pectin, but I prefer to just make jam the way they did 150 years ago.  Besides, sugar is delicious.  At any rate, all the internet recipes (mostly from Southeast Asia, incidentally, where guavas are common) told me to use 1 cup of sugar per 1 cup of puree.  That sounded obscene, hence my scaling back.  I now realize they were referring to a much thicker puree.  I probably only had 4 cups of puree and a ton of water, so I think I did add too much sugar.

The sweetened soup went back on the burner on medium-high to cook to the consistency of jam.  This took 45 minutes or so.  Unfortunately my heat was too high in the beginning and I scorched the bottom of the jam, infusing the whole pot with a caramel flavor.  Not bad, but not what I wanted.  Next time I will be more careful.  Anyway, here’s what it looked like, when it started cooking, and when it was done:

Before

After

All the while the jam was cooking, we had our GIANT boiling water canner at a simmer, ready to go at a moment’s notice.  We also sterilized 8 jam jars with their lids and kept them hot.  Once the jam was done (something I assessed by putting a little on a white plate, letting it cool, and then lifting up the plate to see how fast it slid down), we filled the jars with a funnel, tightened the lids, and processed them for 10 minutes.  Here’s the finished product!

Jammy!

Now, clearly the most important question is how does it TASTE.  Well.  It’s pretty good–it definitely has that distinctive guava flavor, and the texture is right.  But it is a bit too sweet, and I wish that the caramel flavor weren’t there.  Something to strive for next fall!  In the meantime, this batch is pretty delicious when you put a dab on a cracker spread with cream cheese or another mild, salty cheese.

Stay tuned for the next episode of JamBlogging…will it be apple butter, or tangerine marmelade?

Hello interweb!

17 Nov

Good morning, lovely people.  Welcome to a blog that won’t make much sense or adhere to any coherent theme!  Since I can’t decide which aspect of my life I want to write about the most (food?  babies?  lawyering?  crafts?  etc?), I’m just going to talk about them all.  As I’m fairly confident there are no other crafter-lawyer-foodie-hippie-mothers out there, I won’t aspire to build a community of people just like me.  How boring that would be, anyway.  So maybe a post here or there will jive with someone, and another post will jive with someone else.  I can only promise that I’ll only blog about things that excite me a lot or piss me off a lot.  Passion!  I promise passion!

Since it all begins and ends with food, my first post will be about said food.  I just spent an ungodly $20 on fresh local guavas at the farmer’s market, which are destined to become a year’s worth of gorgeous, pungent, unctious jam.  I will blog the whole unbelievably sticky process, with lots of photos.  I may even transcribe the inevitable fights my husband and I will have as we sterilize jars and immerse them in our jerry-rigged water bath.

Cheerio, friends!

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