Improv Quilting Class #1

Well, it happened again.

Some friends let me coax them into taking another class, this time focusing on improvisational quilting. I know, right?  Who knew that was a thing?  I really considered calling the class "Lazy Girl Quilting" but I wanted to attract participants, not deter them.  So we're going with improv quilting, and it fits.

If you've seen me sew, you know that THIS style of quilting is for me.  Not too much planning?  Only stopping to measure sometimes?  Using scraps?  Count me in.

On top of that, there is very little ironing.  This is a delightful style of quilting, my friends ... and if you've never tried it then I suggest that you set aside your preconceived notions of improvisationalism and turn off your iron.  

Our first class focused on log cabin style piecing.  There are plenty of great tutorials online about log cabin quilts.  I posted my own back in 2010 (start here and here) when I taught my first class (again, to friends.  Wow, I have really awesome friends.)  If you want to see some of the wonky/improv log cabin quilts I've done, they're here, herehere, and (a giant log cabin block) here.

Both blocks have a center square about 3.5" x 3.5".  I say about because the whole point of improv (to me) is to forge right ahead without overthinking little details like measurements and right angles.  The strips all started off 2.5" wide and I trimmed as I went along to add some wonkiness.

The block on the right was pieced exactly the same way as the one on the left, but then I sliced it up with one cut top-to-bottom and one side-to-side.  Then I rotated the top right and bottom left pieces before resewing the block back together.  Boom.  Improv.

Very little thinking, really.  I did iron at the end, just to get it to sit nicely.

Improv Quilting!  Scraps!  Trying new things!  Friends!  I have much to be thankful for.


Handwritten Recipe: Sloppy Joes or Janes

This recipe is courtesy of Jessica - the friend who introduced me to so many awesome New England things.  She moved away but thankfully now lives close to our family in North Carolina, so we get to keep up.  We opted for the Sloppy Janes version of this - going vegetarian with lentils - and loved the outcome.  Another winning handwritten recipe!

1 1/4 lb ground beef
1 large onion, minced
1 green pepper (I chopped it)
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. ketchup
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
dash ginger

Brown ground beef.  Add veggies to pot and brown.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir and simmer 30 minutes with the lid on.  Serves 6.
Variation: substitute cooked lentils for the beef (vegan version)

Update from Jessica: Yes, chop the green pepper.  Also, about two cups of cooked lentils would be an appropriate substitute for the beef.

This should tell you something about how delicious this was: I do not have any pictures of the created meal.  I was so hungry when it was time to eat it, and leftovers didn't last long.  This had a sweet and tangy kick (which must've been the ketchup-mustard combo), and I started dreaming about eating more of this when it's summer and I'm picnicking on the porch.

I'm not sure that "sloppy janes" are really a thing, but they should be.  I'm into lentils.  

I served this sandwich style, with slaw and green beans.  I think it would've also been delicious with cornbread or served over rice.  I may also work with the tangy-ness of the dish by adding either more mustard (or a different kind) or something like worcestershire sauce.  Yum!


Coiled Rope Baskets

Cotton clothesline + thread + sewing machine + kids napping

(Making baskets is my new crafting obsession.  I just can't stop.)


Handwritten Recipe: Simple Spanish Tortilla

Oh, hey, brother!  I was so excited to try out this recipe from mi hermano: the simplest of Spanish omelets that is delicious hot, cold, or at room temperature.  My favorite way to eat any leftovers is as a sandwich - er, bocadillo - on crusty bread.  Good for any meal of the day.  Recipe originally from slate.com.  

extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lb waxy potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
10 large eggs

Heat oven to 375.  Put 3/4" of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add potatoes and onions, season with salt and pepper, and stir well to coat with the oil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and onion are very tender, 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper, and beat.  Put a large cast iron skillet over medium heat; when it's hot, transfer the potatoes and onion from the pot to the skillet with a spatula or slotted spoon, leaving most of the oil behind.

Pour the eggs over the potatoes and onions, stir very gently just to distribute all the ingredients evenly in the skillet, and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.  Store leftover tortilla wrapped in foil in the refrigerator for up to a few days.

This recipe is a little unconventional as far as Spanish tortillas (omelets) go, because it typically calls for flipping the WHOLE THING in order to cook the top.  I remember at least three times in the past that I've tried to flip a tortilla the traditional way and it's ended up on the floor (I cried about it, yes I did.)  So, this is a nice reprieve.  And, hey, it turned out fabulously.  Crusty on both the top and bottom, and perfectly potato-y on the inside.  My one suggestion is not to skimp on salt - potatoes really need salt.

Thanks, brother!


Two Little Words

Just a head's up, friends ... I've been thinking.  I know, I know.  I usually don't share a lot about what's going on in the old rhymeswithsmile brain, because I'm too busy either making food, cleaning up food, or thinking about more food.  But these two words have been floating around my noggin' for the last month or so, and have come up enough in conversation that I just can't let it go.  So here you have it, the two words that I can't let go: intentional and simple.



Intentional simplicity.

Simple intentionality.

Really, there's nothing earth-shattering about the words.  But they're surprisingly complex to think on.  What does intentional food look like?  And where does a simple home fit in?  What does it mean to raise kids with intentionality and simplicity? And there's so many more things - faith, work, earning and spending money, building relationships, fostering community, spending time, planning future.

I can look back on the last five years or so and see how some big life circumstances really helped kick the Mr. and I in the direction of living intentionally and simply.  Grad school is what did it to us - we got stripped of a lot of things that we had taken for granted before (dental insurance and magazine subscriptions, as silly examples) and found out how to have lots of fun with unconventional resources (I almost said limited resources, but that would imply that our only resources were financial.  We were - and are - rich in many, many things).  It really wasn't easy.  I cried a lot.  But it was a start, and in retrospect, it was valuable.

You should know that I'm not really into resolutions for a new year.  But since I can't get these words out of my mind, go ahead and prepare yourself for a few more ramblings on the subject of simplifying and choosing to live intentionally.


Handwritten Recipe: White Grass Chili

This recipe comes from grad school friends of ours who are fellow outdoor enthusiasts and local adventurers.  Fun fact: our first backpack-camping trip with kid #1 was with them (and despite the rough night, they still wanted to be friends).  They are good people.  This is good chili.  And vegetarian/vegan!  Yummy.

2 1/2 c. dried pinto beans
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and grated
1 1/2 c. chopped green pepper
1 c. raw bulgur
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 16-oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped
1 16-oz. can tomato puree
salt and pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight in 2 quarts water (plus a dash of baking soda).  Rinse and cook in fresh water with the salt.  Cook until tender (about 1 hour).  Reserve 1 cup of bean broth.

In a large saucepan, saute onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and green pepper in olive oil.  Add bulgur, spices, herbs, and 1 cup water.  Mix well and add cooked beans, 1 cup of bean broth, tomatoes, and puree.  Let simmer 45 minutes or until bulgur is softened.  It may be necessary to add more water to determine thickness.  Serve topped with grated mozzarella or cheddar, or sour cream.

This is a good, hearty chili that can be made in stages (cook beans one day, assemble the chili the next),  cooked in the crockpot instead of stovetop, or made ahead and frozen in smaller batches.  I did it in the crockpot, and it filled it literally to the brim.  We've been eating on it for a few days now, and I can vouch for it getting better and better.  If you can't find raw bulgur, you can substitute something else to thicken the sauce I'm sure (rice, barley, etc.)