More than you wanted to know: Part 1

Wondered what's inside this bag under the tree? It's the biggest and baddest Christmas present I've ever made. Or, I suppose I could call it the most time consuming, most frustrating, most rewarding. It's a QUILT, people. Overachiever, anyone? Over here! Over here!

Luckily, I had the right mind to start this thing back in October knowing full well what a beast it could prove to be. And beast it was.

But, let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C. When you sew you begin with scissors, a stack of fabric and a migraine. To reduce it from a migraine to a run of the mill headache, I used this Lemon Squares pattern for measurements. And let's be real. I'm not 95 years old. Scissors are for crazy people. Rotary cutters are where it's at. You slice the fabric like you slice a pizza.  A couple hours later, here were my stacks.

Oh, hold up. I forgot to mention that I wasn't just making a QUILT. I was making a PICTURE quilt. So the first step was wrangling pictures from all of John's siblings. Then formatting them, converting them to black and white and printing them on fabric paper (fabric lightly adhered to paper which peels off after having run through the printer). I went with a brand which marketed its color-fast quality, so I had the extra step of treating the fabric post print. Here were some of my prints laying out to dry.

And I suppose I also ought to mention that the picture sizes I needed left a lot of white space and that paper ain't exactly cheap. So, I pulled together a few "text pictures" on Photoshop to get the biggest bang for my buck.

My stacks of fabric stayed nicely organized until I was about 80% finished and Annie came to help me reorganize. So kind of her. Things got ugly after that. I couldn't find pieces I needed and had only bought enough fabric to barely make it. So I ended up working into the quilt a lot of mismatched scraps.

The piecing took me a couple of days. I sewed each individual block before I layed them all out on the bed and played around arranging them.

Like I mentioned in this post where I made our bedroom pillows, I'm not usually a perfectionist when I sew. But for this project I was pretty militant about ironing after each new seam in order to really keep my lines straight. I hate looking back at a quilt with mismatched corners that could have easily been remedied with a few extra seconds of attention.

Plus I had this girl keeping tabs on me and pointing out any inconsistencies. She's a tough cookie. Don't let the happy-go-lucky stripes fool you.

As you can see in that above picture, things got funky. The body of the quilt bored me. But that was also the point. I didn't want the photographs to be swallowed by the fabric around it. The quilt border gave me a chance to be bold. And Kaffe Fasset is my homeboy. His fabric makes me drool. These were all remnants I had from his collection...maybe ten years ago? Yes, that means I bought it in high school. What can I say? I was a dork. But at some point I had a temporary hiatus from being weird and quilting as a fifteen year old. And therein lay the reason for a handful of quilt blocks I never used and a stack of already cut Kaffe Fasset fabric. I incorporated those into the backing and border of the quilt. Layed it out, sandwiched in the batting and basted the layers together.

Then it dawned on me that I didn't actually know how to quilt. (Sorry John, I'm about to sell you out.) So, John and I sat down and watched tutorials on how to quilt. He was clearly bored that evening. And he and I jacked around on scrap fabric realizing how terrible we were and how it was going to cost a fortune to get this thing finished if I had to hire it out. (For all you cool people out there who don't know. Piecing is sewing the blocks or strips together. Quilting is securing the top, the middle batting (what keeps you warm) and the backing together. It's the hard part. The long part. The pull your hair out part.)

After practicing for not enough time, I took the plunge. I buried the layers under the neck of my machine, with the bulk of the quilt swallowing our dining room table, and I began free motion quilting. Wearing gardening gloves with rubber finger tips to grip and guide the layers. What? Lay off. I know it's weird. But it helped. A lot. Besides it was my mother-in-law who gave me those gardening gloves several years ago. I'm a terrible gardener and only used them but once. Given that this quilt was for her and John's dad, I felt like the usefulness of the gloves came full circle. BAM.

Okay, this post has gotten a little too lengthy. Let's do the reveal tomorrow.

(Pssst...here's The Reveal)


Poppy Seed Bread

Some people say that I care too much about the house I'm living in. And sometimes I think, maybe you're right. Then, John and I move into a crappy rental and I realize, IT MATTERS. You should get to walk through your front door and be able to breathe. You should get to gaze upon some killer artwork. And you should like to have people over. You feel me? Or maybe you think that spending money on interior design is a waste, but then who of you would hesitate to have Nate Berkus come flip your house? Not a one, I bet. Because where you live MATTERS.

That's all semi-irrelevant to this post. It was really all just my lead-in to saying that when we live in a place with a nice, open kitchen, we cook a lot more than when our kitchen is the size of half bathroom. Like it currently is.

Anyway, that beautiful cousin of mine whose wedding video is seen in this post had an idea a few years ago to update our huge family's cookbook (which can be bought here). A few of us cousins got all inspired and made a bunch of phone calls and chattered all about how we were going to make a ridiculously awesome cookbook with PICTURES, people. And I was all like, yeah, I've seen Pioneer Woman's recipe pictures - no biggie, I got this - and I volunteered myself as photographer of our never-actually-happened new cookbook. My thought was to begin photographing whatever I was making that night - as I always cooked from our family's book AND as we were living in a space in New Orleans with an awesome kitchen so I was cooking every night (unlike now - quesadilla, anyone?) 

I happened to be making Poppy Seed Bread that night, thus it was my first go. It took me all of four hours to make a twenty minute recipe. BAM! Project over. Hopes dashed. But atleast we had some great bread to eat as we mourned my lack of quick photography skills. NOPE. Apparently, you can overstir the s@%* out of batter until it tastes like rubber when it's cooked. And that's what I did - take after take - while I blindly adjusted knobs on my camera that I didn't know existed until I got a decent shot. And by the way, does Pioneer Woman have three hands? I mean for reals, or does she have a feather light camera that she can hold in one hand while adjusting settings with one finger, steadying with another and shooting with still another? I nearly dropped my camera in the batter thrice. 

Okay, so these pictures were taken two years ago. And I forgot all about them. Because we all bagged the cookbook idea and did various things like get married, move half way across the country from California, have a baby, etc. Then I came across this picture file last night and thought - this project will be redeemed. If only for one lousy blog post. My blood, sweat and tears will not be for nothing.

So here it is. Perhaps the only recipe post that will ever grace this site. Perhaps. 

Poppy Seed Bread

Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. 

Crack some eggs. (Photographed to eliminate any possible confusion. Huh?)
 Pour some sugar on me the eggs in a separate bowl.
 Add in the flour, milk, oil, and extracts.
 Stir it all together.
 Grab a few spoonfuls of poppy seeds.
 Pour into a greased bread pan and pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour.
 While it's baking, whisk vanilla and almond extract with orange juice and powdered sugar to make a glaze.
Brush this glaze over the still hot bread.
And assuming you (unlike me) didn't overstir the batter and transform it into rubber, slice up some goodness.

And because this is how the PROfessional recipes bloggers seem to do it, here's the condensed version of the recipe for ya.

Poppy Seed Bread

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 T. oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp almond
1 1/2 tsp butter flavoring
1 1/2 T poppy seeds

1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond
1/2 tsp butter flavoring
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Grease bread pan. In large bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. In separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, oil and extracts. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in poppy seeds and spread in prepared pan. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Whisk together glaze ingredients. Remove bread from pans and brush with glaze while still hot. Cool on rack.

P.S. I know I overemphasized how not awesome this bread tasted due to my inordinately lengthy stirring, etc. but this bread really is good. So make it. Don't make it. Whatever. Just so long as my labored for pictures don't die unceremoniously.


The Patch

Just came on to say that I didn't cherish the autumn days enough. Now it's cold. So cold. And leaves don't crunch under our feet on walks because they've all been swept away by now.

The city's trees seemed to turn in stages this fall - not all at once. Armour Hills and then Southmoreland. Parts of Mission Hills and up to Fairway. Skipped a few blocks and spread throughout the Westside. A lot of leaves had browned before our neighbors' ever went red. And I kept waiting for that full-fledged golden glow, but the longer I waited, the colder it got.

There was that day though. Our two families split - the boys tucked in one car, and the girls in another. Out beyond city limits, we crawled into the country. Hopped on hay bales thrown atop tractor beds. Rolled past pumpkins and straw.

And on that day all the trees were all aglow. Every one. And I only took one picture before the less majestic glow of my camera battery flickered - and died.

Anyway, here's that one picture. And here's me wishing it was autumn every day.


Thankful for Seventeen Months

It's that time again. Ok, I'll stop lying. It WAS that time again at the beginning of November and I spent three weeks moping around with a lack of creativity and inspiration. So she's more like 17 months and 25 days old. But who's counting?

The extra time gave me extra reasons to be thankful for her though.

So here we go. Annie, I'm thankful for your chubbiness. Cheeks. Thighs. Swollen belly because you don't know when to stop eating. Ever. Chubby fingers between those button knuckles. Stuffing fat feet into little leather shoes. Love the chubs. 

 I love how you eat. You scoop yogurt out of the bowl with your fingers. African style, says your daddy. Slurping and sucking your fingers, your palms, your wrists. Stretching out your tongue to grab yogurt off your nose and your chin and your cheeks. Food always on your face.

I like your busyness. Busy, busy, busy. Always off to explore. A loner - and a social ham. All at the same time. Off to your room - close your door. Playing for days with your books. Then straight to my lap - around the dinner table. Friends over and you sit and stare and giggle and clap your hands with company. Taking it all in. You run up to stranger's kids and offer them your sippy cup. Sometimes you mistake their movements for an invitation to borrow these strangers' kids toys. And they yank them back and start to cry. And you, girl, are resilient - and compassionate. You look confused and then offer them your teddy bear. 

Sometimes your dad and I catch you standing, staring off - making funny faces. Leaning one way, then the next. Your eyes are locked and your mouth is pushing smirks and pouts. Often, we catch you stealing away to the piano. Already like your daddy. Clapping when you hear music.

You like to touch things that you aren't used to and then turn around in search of approval. Sometimes you aren't looking for approval. Sometimes you are looking to get a rise out of us. Already. At seventeen months, you can be devious...

We're thankful for your generous spirit. Always putting crackers in our mouths. Sharing your half-eaten food. Wrapping clothes around our necks. Feeding the dog. Even when he's already eaten. Always when he's already eaten. He's always already eaten because, Annie, you are ALWAYS feeding him.

You're fun. You make us laugh. You're silly. And adorable. Are these too generic? But they're the truth. You're real bad fun.

I'm thankful that you run and crawl into my and daddy's laps and let us read you stories. I'm thankful that every night before bed we get to rock you and sing Jesus Loves You.

I'm thankful that you forgive us. We're not even into the hard part of parenting and yet we're already screwing up. But you can stare at us in desperation one moment and then pull up and kiss our faces the next.

We're thankful for seventeen months of waking up to your coos and cries. We're hopeful for hundreds more. We're thankful God is letting us raise you. We love, love, love you, Annie.

***For more of Annie's weekly/monthly picture posts, check out these: 13, 14, and 16.
*****For all 17 months of weekly pictures, check out this page.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...