Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, Part IV

Six flowers down, which means the half-way mark has been reached! The flower on the left has a pink and green dogwood print with a complementary green inner circle and a pink and green plaid center. Dogwoods are prolific in Kentucky, where my grandmother was from, and in the spring, the mountains are a fairy land of pink and white. The second flower uses a space age inspired print in avocado, along with solid marigold and a center of white on white stars. The flower that's in production now is also green and yellow, but it's light spring green for the inner circle and a bright yellow floral print for the outer circle. Very light and airy!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Amazing What You Can Find When You Clean Out Your Closet

I cleaned out my closet yesterday and found a treasure. For over 30 years, my Great Aunt Florence owned the swankiest dress store in town, aptly named The Florence Shoppe. All the well heeled ladies of the town could get anything they wanted there: dresses, shoes, jewelry, peignoirs, hosiery and all their lingerie. The entire time Aunt Florence owned her shop (40s-70s), ladies' "unmentionables" were in discreet boxes behind the counter. The box I found used to hold a dozen panties. From the tape marks, I think it used to hold Christmas presents too. I thought the box was treasure enough, because I could remember the stacks of seafoam boxes that lined the wall behind the counter. But when I opened it, there was a mink collar inside (don't throw red paint on me). I don't remember getting the box, let alone looking inside it. I think it may have been my aunt's mink. The collar clips to your dress at the shoulder, and snaps in the front. All hand stitched too. I don't wear fur, but I collect vintage textiles, so I guess I'll find a better storage method than an old lingerie box lined with old plastic Sears packaging.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why “Refrigerator To Table In 30 Minutes Or Less” Is A Lie

I hate cooking, but I like everyone to eat a healthy dinner around the table. So my save-time radar perks up when I see a recipe that claims I can fix it in 30 minutes or less. Included is the alleged time saving recipe, scanned from my recipe book (I can’t keep torn magazine pages intact so I put them on a card and pop them into my recipe book).

Here’s the first time sucker: 1 pound of chicken cut into strips. Do you know how long it takes to cut 4 boneless chicken breasts into strips if you remembered to defrost them ahead of time? 5 minutes! If you didn’t remember to defrost them, add another 12 minutes for microwave defrosting. I don’t know about you, but I rinse my chicken off before I prepare it. Then I put it on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Do you think the person who took the last paper towel replaced the roll? No. Stop everything while I go find another roll of paper towel. This little side trip took 3 minutes.

Second step: Toss chicken strips in cheese. Where’s the parmesan cheese? Great, we’re low on it. Is there any more? No. Hope there’s 4 tablespoons. Luckily, there were 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese left. Now do I toss the chicken like I toss a salad? Dredge it? I decided to toss it. Raw chicken doesn’t toss as easily as lettuce, so before I started throwing food everywhere a la the Swedish Chef, I developed a little toss-roll thing. Parmesan search and technique development chewed up 7 more minutes. Now we’re up to 15 minutes, and I haven’t even started cooking!

I don’t like to start the oil heating in the skillet until I’m almost ready to cook in case there are unexpected preparation difficulties. Nothing worse than a forgotten skillet with hot oil in it. Can you say kitchen fire? While the chicken and cheese were “getting to know each other” (one of my granny’s cooking terms), I got the olive oil. I started putting it on the highest shelf when the kids were little but I can’t remember why. I’m sure it involved making a mess or accidental ingestion. Who knows why it’s still on the highest shelf since my son is taller than me now. At any rate, I have to s-t-r-e-t-c-h up there to get it, and just as I’m about to snag the bottle, the phone rings. It’s for my daughter, but while I’m distracted looking at the caller ID, I knocked down some seldom used baking cups and a birthday candle lighter. I can see why I put the lighter up there, but baking cups? I’ve gotta reorganize this cabinet some day. Obtaining my 1 tablespoon of olive oil ate up another 3 minutes.

While the oil was heating, I started the side dishes in the microwave. Times flies so much faster when you’re preoccupied by other activities, and before you know it, your skillet is smoking. That didn’t happen this time though. In go the chicken strips, and the cheese promptly absorbed all the olive oil. Now they’re browning too fast, soon on their way to being blackened. I put in some more oil, hoping I wouldn’t make the whole thing a big grease ball. The recipe should be amended to 4-6 tablespoons. Now we’re up to 23 minutes.

The last side dish was going to take 6 minutes to nuke. I wonder if the chicken is 6 minutes from being finished? I don’t know, myself answered, why don’t you ask it? Enough of that, get back on track. Saute 3-4 minutes until browned and cooked through doesn’t apply to any chicken I buy. More like 8-10 minutes. Of course by now my side dishes are cold because I forgot to factor in special sauce production time. It’s taken 32 minutes so far, and I still have one more thing to make. I hollered for the kids to set the table and pour the drinks, and got to work.

I don’t add tomatoes, because the other 3 people who live with me don’t like hot tomatoes. Well, that saved me a minute. Where’s the pesto? I know we have some; I just bought it. Found the pesto, and am now cooking 1-2 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. No thickening is occurring. Does it need more flour? Just leave it alone, I told myself, and threw the veggies back in the microwave for a quick re-heat. I decided to take up the sauce because I feared it would just dry up and permanently adhere to the skillet. It wasn’t thick like white gravy (don’t know if it was supposed to be), but it smelled good. Hollered for everyone to come to the table. On the plus side, Pesto Presto Chicken ended up looking like the picture (always a success in my book), and tasted good too. But it did take 37 minutes from refrigerator to table. Seven whole minutes longer?! The horror! I wish the folks at the Magazine Recipe Testing Kitchen would take into account such time zappers as no paper towel, slicing, defrosting, chopping (take that back, there was no chopping!), cabinet items falling out, ringing phones, etc. before they proclaim a recipe as a “time saver”.  At least nothing caught fire this time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, Part III

Two more flowers are finished!  After the next two, I'll be half way done.  The flower on the left uses a vintage turquoise and pink floral from the 40s along with a turquoise ombre print and a white on white vine print in the center.  The peach fabric in the other flower is a vintage Wamsutta from the 70s.  The other two fabrics are a mint lawn, and a center made with the same material as the center of the turquoise/pink flower.  The flower I'm working on now is gold and green - the combination is so pretty together!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, Part II

Two flowers are done. Only 10 more to go! I'm using the English paper piecing method to make the flowers. Most of the fabrics I chose for the restored flowers are reproduction prints from the 30s and 40s. One lucky flower though gets to be made with the real deal: a vintage floral print from the 40s. One flower is made with a summer themed print (apples, bees, sunshine) and a solid burgundy, and the other is made with a 30s repro blue and pink floral and a pink solid.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, Part I

This is a picture of my grandmother, Lillian Fields Patton, in 1943. She was one of the many women who inspired and nurtured my love of quilting. Long before I was a twinkle in my daddy’s eye, Grandmother made Flower Garden quilts for all her children when they were freshly married. Each hexagon was hand cut, and no two flowers were the same. She used up every piece of scrap fabric she could find, and some of the neighbors’ too. Grandmother even made flowers from my grandpa’s old boxer shorts (3rd picture)!

Six months ago, my aunt, a Super Master Of The Quilting Universe herself, sent me her quilt, asking me to restore it. ACK! What an honor to refurbish something my grandmother made! Not to mention nerve wracking, anxiety producing, heart pounding, pressure filled... OK, I’ll stop. While I was marking the flowers that needed to be fixed, I noticed the binding needed a little TLC too. However, Grandmother bound each side of the outer hexagons with its own separate miter. Can you imagine hand sewing the binding to the quilt 1" at a time, then mitering 1” pieces of fabric together? My mind reeled. Before I fainted completely away, I asked my aunt if she wanted me to replace the binding too. Luckily for my heart, she said no because it would be too hard to match the fabric. What’s left of my sanity thanked her.

The other two pictures are of the quilt itself. It’s too big to take in one shot, so I just took a couple of close-ups to show the diversity of colors and fabrics used. I’ll be posting updates as I go along, or maybe pix of me in the loony bin. Stay tuned!