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Archive for December, 2014

Another Christmas 2014

A few days after Christmas, we gathered with P’s family at his parent’s for dinner & gifts.  Gma hasn’t had all 3 grandkids together at one time in a few years so that was good.

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(K – 29, JP – 22, D – 16)

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Photos were just via my phone and they didn’t turn out so great.

But blurry or not… love this one ~~
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Christmas Food 2014

We were 4 on Christmas Day and thankful to have the day together.  We had all talked about ideas for dinner, simple is my mantra, and everyone helped out.  🙂

Menu:
Garlic Butter Lemon Shrimp

Noodles

Zucchini noodles — made with K’s tool and I soon bought my own!

marinated vegetable salad

mashed potatoes – because I love my husband and he loves mashed potatoes

Cheesecake with raspberries

The shrimp was so easy to make!  And the best ever!!  Best meal I’ve had in a long time!!  P helped me peel the shrimp and that took awhile… we had 3#.  JP cooked regular noodles and K cooked the zuke ones.  I had the mashed potatoes in the crockpot.

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And seriously… you know I don’t spend extra time in the kitchen… and I made this cheesecake!!

And it is gluten-free.

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JP suggested raspberries for the cheesecake topping.  I bought 3x the amount of frozen ones as we could have paid with buying “fresh as Illinois gets…” so all could have plenty!

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There are no words for how good this was!  I think K & I were stuck on our chairs unable to move after all this.

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via P’s cell phone….

There were leftovers of everything  — the kids had to-go boxes for a few more meals and P & I ate several more meals as well.  And seriously, what is better for supper on Christmas Day than a piece of cheesecake?

 

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Some Christmas treats I sent to my mom this year ~~

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark 
I got the original recipe from a blog linked here.

I follow this and see she has added some notes that weren’t in the original and are helpful.  (My notes: Cook syrup in pan until foamy and a bit longer.  Bake in oven until bubbly.)

5 ingredients:
Butter
Brown Sugar
Mini Pretzels
Chocolate Chips
Salt – coarse would be best… I just use regular

EDIT by OP:: I’ve turned out several batches of soft bark over the past couple years, and I think I finally uncovered the secret last night. Cook the butter and brown sugar until it turns a bit darker and has a fluffy texture. Spread over your pretzels, then put the pan into the oven at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. You’ll want the surface to be covered in tiny bubbles…but don’t burn it! (Been there, done that, too.)

Line a 4-sided jelly roll pan with foil. Cover with a single layer of pretzels. Melt two sticks of butter in a small saucepan. Add one cup brown sugar and stir together. Boil just a little and keep stirring until it gets darker. *You want to let it cook just to the point that you think you may have ruined everything. That’s when the caramelly, sticky magic happens. Pour over pretzels. Bake at 375 for 7ish minutes. Remove from oven and immediately throw your chips on. The heat will melt them, then scrape your rubber spatula over them to spread them around. Sprinkle liberally and generously and graciously and lovingly with sea salt. Cool a bit on the counter. Then pop into the freezer for an hour or until you remember it’s in there. Break apart into bite sized (aka fist-sized) pieces. Fall asleep with salty lips. Wake up with bark mouth.

~~~

My first batch was too soft… we had to eat it ourselves. (so sad….) The 2nd batch was hard enough and was sent but of course some little pieces were picked up by me.  This is so good… I eat enough to get sick to my stomach… but soon it is gone and I withdraw from the sugar once again.

Caramel Corn
This has been my stand-by recipe, was a normal snack years ago, and is still good.

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Pop 2 batches of popcorn.  (1/2 cup unpopped corn each)

Put pop corn in a brown paper grocery sack, discarding old maids.

Mix first 4 ingredients in a large pan.  Heat to boiling and boil for 2 minutes. Add baking soda and stir well. Pour over the popped corn in the bag.  Close the bag and shake well.  Put bag in the microwave and cook on High 30 – 60 seconds.  Turn the bag over and shake again and cook on High on high 30 – 60 seconds more.  (less cooking time is stickier corn and I have an old microwave so cook longer for slightly sticky – not too sticky.)

Dump out of bag onto 2 large cookie sheets to cool.  Crumble and keep covered if any lasts.

 

Salted Date Caramels

Link here.  (I made the chocolate coating as listed and it is easy to do.  I didn’t dust with coconut flour. I used maple syrup.)

Yield: Makes about 15 large or 25 small caramels

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted mejool dates. To measure, pit your dates and then pack them into the measuring cup before soaking them in the hot water. For me, this was about 14 smallish dates.
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (full fat or light), warmed
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, optional
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. unrefined salt
  • Coconut flour, for dusting
  • Chocolate coating
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 Tbs. raw honey or pure maple syrup
  • OR use melted dairy-free chocolate chips (about 1/3 cup chocolate chips, use more if needed)

Instructions

  1. Soak dates in very hot water for 15 minutes. Drain before proceeding. Blend the dates, coconut milk, coconut oil and vanilla extract until a smooth paste forms. Add 1/4 tsp. salt, blend, and taste. Add a bit more salt if desired. Place in the fridge or freezer until firm and pliable, at least 3 hours.
  2. Roll teaspoons of the date mixture into balls. (work fast) Dust lightly with coconut flour so they don’t stick to each other. Place in the freezer to stay firm.
  3. Make the chocolate coating: melt and stir together the cocoa powder, coconut oil and raw honey over very low heat until combined. The mixture may separate slightly, in this case put it in the fridge for just a few minutes and then stir. Let the mixture cool until thickened enough to coat the caramel balls. Place in the fridge for a few minutes if it is too runny, but keep an eye on it because it hardens very quickly.
  4. If you are using the chocolate chips instead of the homemade chocolate coating, just melt the chocolate chips over low heat until smooth. Do not overheat.
  5. One by one, roll a caramel into the chocolate and place on a baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment or waxed paper. Sprinkle very lightly with the unrefined salt, and place in the fridge until the chocolate coating is firm. Store in the fridge. If they aren’t consumed quickly (most likely), they last at least a few weeks in the fridge.

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Ok… these won my heart!  Not really sugar in them except the maple syrup.  I do not like cream filled candy at all. These are not that texture.  More coconut flavor than dates.

I bought a quart of coconut milk for this and needed 1/4 cup. It only makes sense I need to make more of this recipe to use the coconut milk, right?  Buying more dates tomorrow!  (BTW, I just used store brand pitted dates.  I have no idea what mejool dates are or where I get them and I’m pretty sure I don’t like the cost. )

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I have a friend that serves with her husband as a pastor to the local pastors in a Third World Country.  The last few years I’ve sent boxes to help them prepare Christmas gifts for the pastor families as well as area orphans.  She has a very fascinating blog and HERE is the specific post about the gift boxes.

I have really enjoyed packing boxes for the Sowers’ ministry as they don’t just drop off boxes, take photos, and leave. They continually minister to these families and children all year long.  They help with area physical needs (feeding centers and building huge cement bridges to replace wooden planks!) and providing training and encouragement to those around them.  I know some of you are super creative in your preparing special boxes per age & gender and family boxes are also needed for the Sowers.  I send a box of needed items and let them fill-in gaps or make new packages from the extras I include.

This year when I saw blankets as a need on the list and saw what a blanket costs (when did I buy a blanket last???), I figured I had fabric, I’d make quilts for part of my box.  I officially took off the week of Thanksgiving from customer work and spent my quilting time make quilts for an unknown loved one in a faraway land.  It was so fun to make from what I had and be able to do whatever I wanted.  I ended up playing quite a bit with my quilting.  Midst the work, my mind prayed for the Sower family and those that will receive my meager gifts.

Of course, that week also had time with the kiddos on Wednesday night and Thursday and extra cooking but I was pleased with all I did on the other days.

This top was started at a guild workshop many years ago.   (Pat Speth author of the Nickel Square books.)   The pieces were cut and two 16″ blocks were finished; like this as they were pulled from the project box.

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I pieced the remaining 4 blocks, added sashing and a border.  It is bright and scrappy but not my style when I added in that red/rust sashing.  Is it just me?  I also think the blocks needed 1/4 turns as I went and more blocks and no sashing.  Hopefully someone likes the bright colors.  (I’m pretty sure I could do this pattern again from my nickel squares (8 times???) so I’ll try other layouts.)

Starting quilting ~

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EThis ended being about 50 x 75 or so… a throw or small twin size.   Just right for whoever needs it, I hope!

The next quilt was a pattern I found online after searching for large block quilts.  I love this pattern!  Giant Star  It goes together quite quickly.

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I used a collection of fat quarters and some background fabric from the stash.  Scrappy but sort of coordinated…. gold, brown, slight turquoise, etc.

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Added a turquoise inner border and used that for the binding as well.

And then I got to quilting… lots of detail and play.  This is all free-hand, hand-guided, idea and then let it go… About 30 – 45 mins per square after I had done a few and 8 1/2 bobbins (my long-arm machine bobbins are quite large)!  I prayed these quilts would bless someone abundantly and bring joy to them.  And prayed for my friend as they raise a family there too.

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This quilt is 81″ x 81″.

The rest of my box included men’s tshirts, toiletries, crayons & coloring books.  I was packing a day after the posted deadline or would have bought a few more things to fill up the box.

Currently, they’ve had some shipping issues (prayers still needed!) but have 2 shipping containers coming.  I’m thrilled and hope it is easy to sort and distribute.  Quite a job from what I’ve heard in past years.  I think it would be fun to go see her and help in whatever way I can but the last bit of me has scary thoughts of the landing… dirt strip?  or ?  or?  🙂   Over our years of friendship, we’ve even learned some unusual connections we have between us… less than 6 degrees even… and that is fun to share.

I enjoy sharing in this way.  I know they will deliver to hundreds of people.  You know what would be cool….. a photo of someone with a quilt.  🙂  Or I’ll meet them in heaven some day.  Cuz I feel sort of connected to the receiver even before they have received.  And next year’s goal, desire, would be to have several done before the deadline!  (If you want to donate a top and/or backing fabric, I’ll quilt it and finish it for free for the gift box next year.)

ETA: This post intent was to show you some quilting I’ve done lately and to see if any of my readers want to help in any way with a box or gift to this ministry.  I’m not here to toot my own horn over what I’ve donated.  It is a joy to me to give this!  I’m not seeking praise.

Blog from ministry website HERE.

Giant Star posted on The Quilt Show gallery HERE.

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A fellow quilting friend gave me this cabinet for free that she got for free.  Double win!!  I have no idea where the “before” photos went but this is one of the baskets that isn’t redone yet showing the original colors of paint and the fabric.

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I visited my favorite local quilt shop and in the clearance closet found a great neutral fabric for 40% off!  (there are good scores in there sometimes!)  Then a stop at Home Depot for 2 cans of spray paint in the color “snow”.  A nearly light gray color.

I was hurrying to get this painted before the mid-October temps dropped to below 40’F so I could get the painting done in the garage.  I could use another can of paint and many warmer days, hence the baskets aren’t redone yet.

I plan to have this upstairs for the winter so I can have a bit of personal projects in the living room with my sewing machine and be able to sew in the evenings.  So now with the redo, it seems OK in the living room.  Mostly I’ll like having just the small area for ironing seams.

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The table I intended to use is going to probably become a kitchen table at an apartment soon so I guess I’m in the market for a portable sewing machine table.   I know what I want as another quilting friend has this sort of set-up as well.  That will be a New Year’s addition.  (Yahoo!)

When I recovered the ironing surfaces, I added a layer of batting over the foam that was on there already.  We put new hinges on the drop-sides.  I need Mr. Strong Arms to get the casters in the bottom a bit more secure.

The baskets fit in the pull out part and stay there to slide back into the main section.

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Finished for now!  Thank you!cabinet 2

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Part of the Christmas meeting at one of the quilt guilds I attend was a stocking exchange.  We were given the pattern earlier and were to make a stocking and add up to $10 of goodies inside.

I made this:

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At the meeting, all the stockings were laid out on a table.  So cute!!

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We had numbers drawn out of a “hat” (ie box) and got to choose a stocking in order.  About 25 or so members played along and had made stockings.  I was pleased that #6 chose my stocking.  I had added in a set of good pins, hand needles, and filled the toe with Dove chocolates.  🙂  (I went over the limit…)

I had #17 and there were still all lovely stockings left.  One was bigger than the others and I thought I’d choose that one but then found this blue one.  🙂

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Inside the stocking was a charm pack of red & white fabrics with winter prints… snowmen, etc.  Cute!  And I know who made it so that is extra-special.  (I don’t know many in this group but they are always nice to me.)

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We had a potluck supper and a short meeting where we got to see the guild’s raffle quilt.  Let me know if you want tickets.  🙂   The drawing for the quilt will be October 2015 at our guild quilt show.

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